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Helen Campbell.

The American girl's home book of work and play online

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which is caught is seldom absolutely perfect, being generally
slightly rubbed, either by the means of capture, or from
some accident in its previous life. Sometimes one of the
antennae is missing, often the wings are torn ; and these
misfortunes become especially annoying when the insect is a
rare one. Often common moths are so rubbed, that a young
collector may easily mistake them for some great prize.

We now come to the methods employed in the capture
of butterflies and moths in the perfect state ; and for the
former we have only the net. Of course, this instrument is
also adapted for taking the few moths which fly by day, and
also for their capture, under certain circumstances, at night.

It is hardly necessary to give any description of this well-
known instrument. I will merely remark, that a home-made
one is perfectly satisfactory. The handle should be from
four to five feet long : the ring may be made of stout iron or
brass wire, and bound to the handle with waxed twine. The
net should be twice as deep as the ring is wide, and, if made
of any glazed or sized material, should be well soaked to get
rid of the stiffness.

As soon as a butterfly is caught, it should be rendered
senseless by a sharp pinch under the wings. This is done
through the net, and the insect may then be removed to a
closely-fitting box of tin or wood lined with cork. In this
box should be pinned a small bag of freshly bruised laurel-
leaves, which will stupefy and kill the insects if they are not
already dead. Each butterfly must be attached to the cork
by a fine pin : use for this purpose a much finer one than



2IO HINTS ON MAKING SMALL COLLECTIONS.

the insect will finally be set on, as you can replace it when
you get home with one of suitable size.

Moths must not be pinched : they are, as a rule, better
kept, each in a chip pill-box until you return.

For the capture of moths at night there are several plans.
First, there are the natural attractions afforded by some
plants. I am speaking now of the large class of moths
called the noctucz, which contains more than three hundred
species. Among the attractive plants may be mentioned
honeysuckle, privet, nettles, and especially ivy in bloom.
This last has such a charm, that in its neighborhood it is
useless to offer any other bait. When partaking of any of
these sweets, moths may be captured with the net, or even
boxed, without its aid, in one of the chip boxes before
mentioned. A lantern is, of course, indispensable.

As these natural sweets appeared irresistible, the happy
idea was originated of making an artificial bait on the same
principle ; and the following plan will be found useful :

The process is called "sugaring." Procure some of the
strongest-smelling brown sugar, that from the bottom of a
cask is best, and mix it with beer or water until a very
stiff sirup is formed. Just before using this, add to it some
rum, a wineglassful will be plenty for a pint of the mix-
ture. The mixture should be painted with a brush on the
trunks of trees, in patches about a foot square. This should
be done about dusk, and the patches may be visited at
intervals of half an hour. You will see plenty of moths
imbibing the sugar ; and they are mostly intoxicated by the
rum, and can be easily boxed.

It will be found useful to fasten with a tin tack a piece of
white card above every patch of the composition.' You are
thus able to see at a glance where to look, and it may also
attract the moths.



HINTS ON MAKING SMALL COLLECTIONS. 211

The sugar should be brushed on the side away from the
wind if there is any. Still, cloudy, and damp nights are
best : on moonlight nights it is no good at all. You can
continue to examine the sugar until ten o'clock, or later.
But there is another method which can be practised in the
evening ; and it is one which you will all know, though it
may have been to you, hitherto, rather an annoyance than
otherwise.

I allude to the attraction of a light. We all know that
in the summer evenings, when the lamp is lighted and the
window open, we are constantly annoyed by the incursions
of moths and other insects. If you open the windows wide,
and put the lamp near them, you will have as many as your
heart can desire ; and it is no easy work to secure them.
The net must be used for those which continue to fly about;
but some settle down, and may be boxed at once. You are
likely to get a great number of the same species ; but you
will soon be able to recognize them, even on the wing, and
not employ your time in the capture of those of which you
have already sufficient.

There has been much discussion on the question of how
to kill moths, and collectors differ much on this head. It is
to the interest of the collector (as well as of humanity), that
death, or, at any rate, insensibility, should take place as soon
as possible ; for the specimens would injure themselves by
struggling. I do not like to recommend poisons to young
collectors, however safe they may be in experienced hands ;
and perhaps the laurel-leaf plan is the best all round. But
for some of the larger moths it will only cause stupefaction,
and these should be then killed by a slight stab from a sharp
quill dipped in a saturated solution of oxalic acid. Chloro-
form is a favorite with some ; but it leaves the winga stiff,
and is very expensive, besides evaporating easily.



212 HINTS ON MAKING SMALL COLLECTIONS.

We are all familiar with the appearance of a moth when
set out in a cabinet, but it has to undergo careful treatment
before it reaches that perfection. It has first to be pinned
with an " entomological " pin. These pins are made for
the purpose, and must be bought. The pin must be put in
very straight and with great care. Use too small a one
rather than too big, as a larger one can at any time be sub-
stituted ; and no doubt the pin was made to hold and show off
the moth, and not the moth to ornament and beautify the pin.

The insect is then pinned in a groove in a suitably sized
" setting board," which is simply a strip of deal with a
groove to receive the body ; while the wings are spread out
over the wood at each side, which should be slightly rounded.
The wings should be brought up a little in advance of the
head, and of course must be even with each other. They
are to be kept in position by small triangular pieces of card
pinned over them.

In pushing forward the wings, a small piece of apparatus,
which is most easily made, is invaluable. Take a bit of cork
about the size of a pea ; and run through it, at right angles to
each other, a pin and a long bristle ; then the thing is done.
By sticking the pin into the board, the bristle may be made
to press on the wings, which will hold wherever you put
them ; and they can thus be easily coaxed into their proper
place by the aid of a needle.

The antennae and legs must also be set, and the insect
left for some days to harden, or " set "as it is termed, tak-
ing care meanwhile that it is in a dry and airy place, and out
of the reach of mice, wasps, and cockroaches. It is then
ready for removal to the cabinet.

With regard to the cabinet, unless you can have a good
one, have none at all, and be content with keeping your
insects in corked boxes. In either case a plentiful supply



HINTS ON MAKING SMALL COLLECTIONS.

of camphor must be kept with the specimens, or they will
soon fall a prey to "mites." This pest is a plague of small
insects, which devour the specimen ; and their presence
makes itself known by dust appearing under the moths.
Mites may be killed by inverting the drawer or box over
blotting-paper soaked in naphtha: it should be left in this
position for an hour or two.

Another plague which attacks the specimens is called
"grease." This is caused by the fatty matter in the bodies
of the moths extending over the wings, and completely spoil-
ing their appearance. Prolonged soaking in benzine will be
found a satisfactory cure for this unsightly disorder.

Many of our butterflies and moths are very common, and
the young collector will almost certainly get them in her
first season. Others are rare ; and yet any one may come
across them, and of these we have all an equal chance.
Indeed, many rarities fall to young collectors, owing to their
habit of catching every thing they see ; while an older hand
might fancy that he recognized it as something common,
and so let it escape him. But the insects which you will be
unable to get except by exchange are known as "local"
insects. These are often common enough in the place which
they inhabit, but are absolutely confined to that locality, or
to several localities resembling each other.

All specimens must be carefully labelled, and it is not
hard to identify them from the woodcuts in a book. I would
strongly recommend the use of books with uncolored illustra-
tions : the colors in others are always wrong, and serve only to
mislead. Any that you are doubtful about you should reserve
until you have an opportunity of comparing them with some
good collection, or getting them named by some authority.

When you have made your collection, you will have got
more than you are quite aware of. You will have accu-



214 HINTS ON MAKING SMALL COLLECTIONS.

mulated a store of curious information about insects and
their habits, and your own powers of observation will have
been strengthened and sharpened by exercise.

Although the butterflies and moths are the prettiest, you
may wish to go farther in your researches. In this case
you will probably extend your collection to either beetles or
spiders ; and both of these classes arouse much enthusiasm
in their collectors. There are also many kinds of bees and
wasps, though the fear of getting a sting may deter you
from the pursuit of these.

Girls are extremely well suited to this class of work, as
they have, as a rule, the delicacy of touch which is necessary
in handling the small and fragile insects which must be
reared and set. The pursuit will also encourage careful and
orderly habits ; for, without a great deal of method and regu-
larity, any kind of collection becomes mere confusion. Nor
is the study of insects without its use. Many insects are
disagreeably known to us as preying on some plant which is
useful or necessary to us in our daily lives. Among such
may be noticed the phylloxera, which devour vines ; the
locust, mentioned in Scripture with such dread ; and, to
come to our own country, the larva of the cabbage-moth
and of the currant-worm, with many other pests peculiar to
special crops and regions. For books which will be great
helps in this direction see p. 412, 413.

Great honor and reward await any one who may discover
the means of destroying these pests, or alleviating the
destruction which they cause. And, to show that girls need
not consider themselves unfitted for success in this line, it
may be mentioned that our greatest authority on the subject
is a lady, Miss Ormerod, whose painstaking investigations
have won for her the admiration of all who take any interest
in such matters.



THE AQUARIUM. 21$



CHAPTER VI.

THE AQUARIUM.

NOTHING gives more pleasure in some ways than the own-
ership of either a marine or fresh-water aquarium ; for, be-
sides the enjoyment of watching the small inhabitants, there
is the even greater one of collecting them.

The first thing to remember is, that the artificial home
must be as much as possible like the real one of the fish.
The high, narrow tanks sold for aquaria are made on the
worst possible plan ; for they give a very small surface for
the air to act upon, whereas there should be as much as
possible. A broad, shallow tank will give longer life to
every thing in it. With a well-made aquarium, where plant
and animal life is exactly balanced, the water need never be
changed. An excellent size for home use is one 24 inches x
7 inches x 16 inches. This can be made at home. Putty
will not answer for cement, as it crumbles when long in
water. At aquarium-stores one can buy what is called aqua-
rium cement, but the " Scientific American " gives a rule
which makes an excellent one. Bear in mind this is for a
fresh-water aquarium.

" AQUARIUM CEMENT. Linseed-oil, three ounces ; tar,
four ounces ; resin, one pound : melt together over a gentle
fire. If too much oil is used, the cement will run down the
angles of the aquarium. To obviate this, it should be tested
before using, by allowing a small quantity to cool under water :
if not found sufficiently firm, allow it to simmer longer, or



2l6 THE AQUARIUM.

add more tar and resin. The cement should be poured in the
corners of the aquarium while warm (not hot). It is pliable,
and not poisonous."

When the aquarium is firmly cemented, an inch of sand
and gravel must be put on the bottom. It is best also to
paint the back and sides with green paint, as it is sheer
cruelty to have the fish constantly exposed to a glaring light.
If a little rockery is wanted at one side, cement that from
various pebbles, but never bits of coral or shells, as the lime
in them is very bad for fresh-water fish.

To dredge up some water-plants from the nearest brook or
pond is the next step, starwort, milfoil, pond-weed, blad-
der-weed, etc. Sometimes they grow on bits of stone, but
usually you will have to fasten the roots to small stones with
a thread. Fill the tank with water, and set it where it will
get light, but not strong sunshine. It will take about ten
days for growth to start well, and then you can put in the fish.
Gold and silver fish, pond-bass, crawfish, water-bugs of several
sorts, tiny turtles, little frogs and eels, all become more or
less tame. Dace, "killies," minnows, etc., may all be added ;
but remember that the dace, carp, or gold-fish must be much
larger than the perch, bass, and sunfish, else they will soon
find lodging inside the latter, who are always hungry.

The stickleback is one of the most interesting to watch.
He is a hard worker, and very pugnacious ; and whether
building a house, or fighting off his enemies, has a business-
like manner which he never loses..

In feeding them, remember that they all have different
habits ; some being greedy, and some abstemious. Bread-
crumbs answer for carp, dace, etc. ; but very finely-cut meat
or worms must be given to bass, pickerel, or gars. No food
must be allowed to lie in the water, as it will contaminate it.
Prepared food is sold at aquarium-stores, and all of the fish



A MARINE AQUARIUM.

will eat bread. Crawfish are almost as amusing as hermit-
crabs. " They pull up the plants, upset the rockery, nip the
ends off the fishes' tails, crack the mussel-shells, pull out the
inmates and devour them, squeeze the caddis-worm from his
little log house, and in fact are incorrigible mischief-makers."
Tadpoles, too, are very interesting ; and a baby-turtle will eat
his own weight in flies every day.

A MARINE AQUARIUM.

This is made on much the same plan as the fresh-water
one, save that there should be a shallow, slanting, false
bottom. The glass is set in a grooved frame, as with the
first described ; but the cement used is different, a form
being given in the " Scientific American."

" CEMENT FOR MARINE AQUARIA. Take ten parts by
measure, litharge, ten parts plaster-of-Paris, ten parts dry
white sand, one part finely powdered resin, and mix them,
when wanted for use, into a pretty stiff putty with boiled
linseed-oil. This will stick to wood, stone, metal, or glass,
and hardens under water. It resists the action of salt water.
It is better not to use the tank until three days after it has
been cemented."

Clean cinders make very pretty rock-work ; and it is well
to build and cement a small arch, through which the fish will
dart, and against which they can rub, using an old oyster-
shell for top-piece. At least an inch and a half of sand must
be put in the tank, which is then to be filled with salt water
from the sea, and not manufactured.

Let it stand a day or two, and then put in your plants,
selecting pebbles on which bright seaweeds are growing.
Too much light will kill them. The back and sides may
better be painted green, and never let the sun strike directly
upon the aquarium. Hermit-crabs and fiddlers, with their



2l8 THE AQUARIUM.

one big claw always waving in protest or mischief, eels, the
beautiful sea-anemones, will give unfailing pleasure.

Tadpoles afford more amusement than any other speci-
mens, save hermit-crabs and sticklebacks, but need a vivari-
um, or a tank which is part earth, part water. I do not know
of any thing more interesting for the river aquarium or vi-
varium than to watch the metamorphosis of the tadpole
from the spawn to the fully developed frog, toad, or lizard.
The eggs may be found in ponds or ditches during the
months of March or April. The following is a drawing of
spawn found on the 4th of March, showing the different
stages of the larvae form.

First the external gills appear (tiny tufts on each side
of the head), then two legs sprouting near the tail ; after
that, the fore-legs make their appearance ; when the tail is
gradually absorbed into the body, and the little fellow hops
nimbly to the nearest leaf or rock, and finally quits the water
altogether. First, they breathe by external gills ; secondly,
by rudimentary lungs and gills ; thirdly, on leaving the water,
by lungs alone. In every form, these erratic " wriggle-woggle-
bobbas " are as active as interesting ; not the least so as a
microscopic object, the circulation of the blood in the tail
being a most exquisite and wonderful sight.

Do not overstock the aquarium, as then the inhabitants
will pine and die. Feed on finely chopped clams or oysters,
or raw meat, or prepared food, with which directions come.
If the water evaporates, remember that the salts in it do not,
and simply make up the loss with fresh water. Be careful
to skim out all uneaten food, and keep the top covered with
glass to keep out dust. Stir the water daily for a minute to
give more air.

Low tide at the seashore will give you many curious things.
Wear very old shoes (as salt water ruins good ones) and old



A MARINE AQUARIUM.



219



clothes also. Carry wide-mouthed bottles or glass preserve-
jars in a basket, and use a little dip-net, which can be made
of mosquito-netting. Barnacles are very interesting ; for, if
you watch, they suddenly put out a curious hand-shaped part
that grasps after any thing near it. And in a morning you
can get enough of all sorts of things for a dozen aquaria.




FIG. 50.

Marine worms in these cases are very brilliant ; and you will
find the fullest description of this beautiful sea-life in a book
by the Rev. J. G. Wood, the full title of which is on p. 412.
Where a more elaborate tank is needed, the best form ever
made is that of the slope-back tank, an English patent, but
for sale also in this country. Time, labor, money, and anxi-
ety are saved by their use. After many years' trial they
are proved to be lasting and satisfactory : they enable the
greatest number of animals to be healthily maintained in



22O THE AQUARIUM.

the smallest space, and therefore at the least expense ; be-
cause the water is advantageously spread out, not piled up,
and every portion is turned to good account. One great
secret of success is the "dark-chamber" principle. Every
tank is provided with a sloping back, upon which the rockery
is cemented, for the accommodation of animals, plants, and
that portion of water visible to the spectator. The under
part contains water in a state of darkness, and therefore clear-
ness : the two are made to communicate by several small
holes ; so that the circulation of water is constant, though
slow. When we remember that an aquarium is a limited
portion of unchanged water containing animal and vegetable
life, which must necessarily throw off decaying matter, the
extreme value will be felt of a reserve store, within the tank
itself, of cool, clear water, which, being free from corrupting
animal and vegetable matter, keeps up a constantly purifying
influence upon the fluid in front. Should the water in the
outer chamber become foul, green, brown, or white, the pure
water behind may be made to take its place more actively
by a small pump or syringe inserted in a hole left in the
upper corner for the purpose. This hole must be always
carefully covered with a loose bit of stone, lest any animal
should enter, and destroy the object of the under partition,
which is " to allow no organic matter to enter, and to let no
light be admitted to it, so that any water placed there rap-
idly becomes deodorized and colorless." This arrangement
was considered by Mr. Lloyd (in 1861) next best to having a
constant stream in an aquarium.

The engraving is a sectional view of one of his slope-back
tanks, " the invention of which has largely helped to revolu-
tionize aquarium science."

a is the dark water-chamber ; b, aquarium proper ; c, plate-
glass front ; d, glass cover in two pieces, fitting in a groove



A MARINE AQUARIUM.



221



on the top, leaving an inch of open space to allow a free
current of air ; e, hole for the syringe ; /, bottom and back
of slate. The two ends are of the same material, thus giving
strength and solidity to the whole ; and, being opaque, they
prevent the admission of light through the sides.

Aquatic organisms require modified light, always obtained
through the surface. Seas and rivers are illuminated in this
way ; and, as our
object is to follow
nature as closely
as possible, those
tanks which have
three sides opaque,
and one only of c
glass (reserved for
the observation of
the contents),
must be better
than any other va-
riety.

Some of the accidents that may happen are given here,
and the rules that naturally made themselves as protection
against such catastrophes.

First, a thunder-storm turned the water white. Secondly,
fish and shrimps jumped out, apparently boiled. Thirdly,
special pets died the morning after a party. Fourthly, the
sand became black. Fifthly, stones fell down, and broke
the glass. Sixthly, creatures devoured or killed one another.
Seventhly, weeds died. Eighthly, conferva choked the tank.
Ninthly, the water was often changed. Tenthly, the climax
was reached by the bursting of the largest bell-glass, in a
most mysterious manner, at six o'clock in the morning. All
I know is, that on the drawing-room carpet was a hetero-




FIG. 51.



222 THE AQUARIUM.

geneous mass of frightened shrimps, fish, crabs, anemones,
starfish, sand, stones, glass, and ten gallons of sea- water. A
coroner's inquest was held on the remains. The verdict
returned (for want of further light on the subject) was,
" Spontaneous combustion."

Now you stand a much better chance of success. Have
we not learned how to avoid these calamities ?

1. Do not overstock the tank. Keep the animal life at a
minimum rate, leaving a margin for emergencies.

2. Aerate the water in hot weather, always remembering
to syringe gently, so as not to disturb the animals, or to stir
up the sediment. Extreme cold also kills delicate animals.

3. Dissipation does not agree with " water-babies." If
you have an evening party, take them out of the room ; or
if that be impossible, and the room becomes heated with fire
and gas, keep a wet cloth round the tank, throw open the
window the last thing at night, give a dose of fresh air and
a few strokes with the syringe.

4. Watch the sand well. Do not allow any burrowing
creature to go away into a cranny to die. Remove the first
speck of black, or the least sign of white, film that some-
times spreads over the bottom.

5. Cement the rockwork together when possible, or use
clinkers. Portland cement is sometimes employed, or white
lead putty covered with shellac dissolved in naphtha. Or,
better still, use a compound of red and white lead, litharge,
umber, and boiled oil.

6. Make a division of species. A small tortoise will kill
a large gold-fish ; fish eat tadpoles ; tadpoles eat any thing ;
sticklebacks eat (almost) every thing else that does not eat
them ; crassies and antheas sting and eat fish, shrimps, etc. ;
shrimps eat starfish ; starfish eat young anemones ; and so
it goes round.



A MARINE AQUARIUM. 22$

7. Never import plants, but allow them to grow of them-
selves, to purify the water, and keep the animals healthy :
grow enough for this, and no more.

8. Give little light. Shade with blue blinds or screens, or
curtains, and cover the tank entirely whilst the sun is out.

9. Choose the coolest and shadiest aspect available :. north
is the best, or even underground. Keep the temperature


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Online LibraryHelen CampbellThe American girl's home book of work and play → online text (page 14 of 28)