James G. (James George) Needham.

Outdoor studies; a reading book of nature study online

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Received JjLCHlF* *.i9.Q.
Accession No. O I J ^- . Class No.







Copyright, 1898, by


w. P. 3


THE years that intervene between the primary and the high school,
for all of which nature study is now prescribed, cover a very wide
period of mental development. For the earlier years of that period
there is now no lack of books, offering object lessons, guides to random
observations, stories of common things interweaving facts with inter-
esting fancies to the edifying of imaginative childhood. This little
book is intended to supply for the later years of that period a few les-
sons of greater continuity, calling for more persistence of observation,
and introducing a few of the simpler of our modern conceptions of
nature at large. These lessons presuppose some years of experience
of life and some previous training in observation. They are not given
as stories, nor for the sake of language lessons primarily, but for the
sake of the interest and educative value of the facts and phenomena
of nature which they set forth.

In writing them I have had in mind the boys and girls more than
the teachers. I have written of things I would have the pupils see
and do and think about, and I trust no teacher will undertake to do
all the seeing and doing and thinking for them. I hope the sugges-
tions for field study will be found so simple and explicit that pupils
may follow them individually and at home whenever desirable. Not
the least of my objects has been to pave the way for more intelligent
and profitable text-book work in the high school, and I am well as-
sured that that work will be better done for the insight gained from
studies such as these.

Wherever a plant or animal is discussed in the following pages a
number is inserted in the text, referring to a corresponding number in
a list of scientific names, which has been relegated to the end of the
book lest the big names frighten any one. These names will at least



help teachers to use the indexes of whatever scientific literature may
be available for reference.

To Mr. A. D. MacGillivray I am indebted for determining the
names of a number of insects. Mrs. J. H. Comstock and Miss Anna
A. Schryver have helped me with valuable suggestions as to the sub-
ject matter. I have, as ever, to acknowledge the assistance of my wife,
Anna Taylor Needham, in the preparation of the drawings. A num-
ber of insects are figured for the first time and all the cuts are new.

This little book, simple and elementary as it is, represents an
amount of labor that is only justified by my faith in the future of na-
ture studies and in the educating and refining influence they are yet
to exert both in school and out.






1 . Association 7

2. The Meaning of It 10



1. Galls 18

2. Some Willow Galls 23

3. How to Rear Gall Makers 26


1 . Goldenrods 29

2. Goldenrod Visitors 33

3. Tenants that Live in the Plant 37

4. Tenants that Live on the Plant 43


1. Crow Character 47

2. Crow Wit 50


1. The Skimmers 54

2. Damsel Flies and Darners 61

3. How Dragon Flies Grow up 64

4. How to Rear Dragon Flies 69


1 . Eye Pictures 73

2. Larval Eye-spots 77




B A R y



OT far from my door probably
not very far from yours grows
the familiar roadside weed com-
monly known as butter and eggs. 1
Little clumps of it appear here and
there in dry, exposed places along
the street, and in a piece of waste
ground farther away a patch of it
in full bloom looks like a great
yellow blotch on the hillside.

Last spring, when it expanded
its delicate leaves, hardly wider
than those of the grass, and of a paler green, one who
did not know would not have thought this slender thing
a hardy native of dry and sterile soil, and would not have
expected such abundance of blossoms as have been pro-
duced all summer long. Flowers first appeared in May,
and are abundant still, though frosts are near at hand.

What curious things these flowers (Fig. i) are, perched
close together alongside the top of the stem, each with its
pouting yellow mouth turned outward, and its long hollow
spur pointing down the stem ! Why is its mouth so tightly
shut? Why that swollen palate, as it is called, atop of the




lower lip, and why its bright orange color? Why are the
margins of the lips turned backward ? What is the use of
that long spur? One must go to nature for the answer to
such questions as these.

Pluck a single flower, and, holding
it up toward the light, you will see that
the hollow spur is partly filled with a
clear fluid, the upper surface of which
appears as a faint line across the spur.
This fluid is nectar, the sugary sap with
which many flowers attract insects. At
first it would seem strange that, if in-
tended for insects, it should be pro-
duced in the bottom of so deep a tube,
a tube the entranceway to which is
shut. Observe that the way is both
shut and guarded ; for the swollen pal-
ate upon the lower lip, which presses
against the upper lip, closingthe mouth,
is covered with minute spikelike points,
all directed outward, as if against intru-
ders. Yet here are other things at-
tractive to insects. Here are bright
colors, placed at the top of the plant where easiest seen,
and intensified by the bunching of the flowers together;
and in each pale yellow flower, though the way to its nec-
tar is closed, the point of entrance is marked by the orange
blotch. Here, too, is a faint fragrance, noticeable of a still
morning beside a clump of newly opened blossoms, faint
to us, with our dull noses, but doubtless plainly perceived
at a distance by some insects.

In order to discover the meaning of all these things,

FIG. 1. Butter and eggs.



let us go out some sunshiny morning, to the largest clump
of these flowers we can find freshly blooming, and see what
is going on. We will take our place quietly among the
flowers, and see what insects, if
any, are visiting them. Butterflies
are on the wing, but these pay ab-
solutely no attention to butter and
eggs. Nectar-loving flies and bee-
tles are buzzing about, visitingother
flowers, butpassingtheseby. Bum-
blebees, 2 however, are here, and are
visiting these, and, save for an occa-
sional honeybee, seem to have the
exclusive privilege. Now bumble-
bees are very peacefully disposed
so long as they are not mistreated ;
so we sit down close to the flowers
to see how the bumblebees get into
them. A flower hangs on its stem,
its mouth tightly closed, as at A
(Fig. 2). A bumblebee comes driv-
ing along, and, guided by the orange
blotch, alights squarely upon the
lower lip. Under its weight the lip descends, and the
mouth is opened, as at B. The spikelike points which
bar out lighter insects serve this one for a foothold. It
clutches them with its claws, and draws itself into the
opened way toward the nectary, as at C. Pushing its
long proboscis ahead, it draws itself down into the flower
until its head is entirely hidden from view. Its front feet
are inside, too, beneath its head. The claws of its middle
feet are caught in a groove on the upper side of the flower,

FIG. 2. The bumblebee work-
ing his passage.



or under the reflexed border of the upper lip ; those of the
hind feet, under the edge of the palate, or under the bor-
der of the lower lip ; and the bee is drinking its fill of the
sweet nectar. Here, then, is the answer to our questions.
This flower is expressly adapted to the bumblebee. To
learn the use of its peculiar structures, we need but see
them used.


In Fig. 3, at A, we have a flower as seen from the front,
its lower lip drawn downward so as to expose the throat.
In the midst of the orange-colored palate we see exposed

a narrow lane, which is bordered
on either side by a hedge of yellow
prickles. Down this lane the
proboscis of the bee is pushed, a
straight road to the nectar. At
B we have the head of the bum-
blebee seen from the front, its
proboscis extended. Imagine
this head turned to face the flow-
er and pushed down into it ; see
how well adapted it is for reach-
ing the nectar.

Everything about the flower is
just right for the bumblebee. Col-
ors guide it to the right spot ; the
mouth opens under its weight,
exposing the way to the nectar ;

FIG. 3. A, the flower with its J

lower lip drawn downward, show- the grooves and margins are

ing the way to the nectar ; also, ex-
posing stamens and pistil against placed conveniently for catching

the erect upper lip. B, the head of
the bumblebee with its proboscis

its feet to support its weight.


A honeybee 3 alights on a flower. It is not heavy enough
to " tip the beam ; " the mouth is opened but slightly, if
at all. It thrusts its slender proboscis into the smooth
way down the palate. This is an entering wedge, and by
dint of hard and continued pushing it at length forces
admittance, and, once inside, readily obtains the nectar.
But this flower is not made for such a light weight. The
honeybee has to work too hard for the nectar it gets here ;
and when flowers and nectar are plenty, it visits others
better adapted to its size.

Other nectar-loving insects are too light weight to open
the flowers, or too weak to force an entrance against the
spines of, the palate, or lack a proboscis long enough to
reach the nectar. This is why the bumblebee has a

But this perfect adaptation is not all for the benefit of
the bumblebee. The bumblebee has a work to do for the
flowers which hardly any other insect can do so well.

The purpose of the flower is to produce seed. The
parts of the flower directly concerned in the production
of seed may be seen by drawing down the lower lip, as in
Fig. 3, and looking under the overarching portion of the
upper lip. The central piece, with moist, whitish, expanded
tip, is the pistil. In its base the seeds develop. The
four others, in pairs, above and below the pistil, are sta-
mens. In their expanded tips is a yellow, sticky sub-
stance, called pollen. In order that seeds may be pro-
duced, it is necessary that pollen taken from the tops of
the stamens be placed on the top of the pistil, and it is
better if the pollen be brought from the stamens of an-
other flower.

The bumblebee brings the pollen.



If we capture with a net and kill in a cyanide bottle a
bumblebee (or a honeybee) that has been visiting flowers
of butter and eggs, we find the stiff, bristly hairs of the
top of its body matted together in a waxy mass of pollen

gathered from many stamens
(see Fig. 4, pm). Referring to
Fig. 3, A t and Fig. 2, B and C,
we see that the tops of the sta-
mens and pistil are placed ex-
actly at the point where this part
of the insect will be crowded
against them when it has fully
entered the flower. What could
be better adapted for extracting
the sticky pollen, or for deposit-

FIG. 4. Bumblebee; pm, the pol-
len mass that is rubbed against the i n pr some of it On the pistil, than
pistil of the flower; pb, pollen basket. &

this brush of stiff bristles ?

On the outside of the hind leg of the bumblebee is a
hollowed space, bordered by a fringe of stiff, erect hairs,
commonly called the pollen basket (see Fig. 4, pb). In
this we will very often find another mass of pollen, which
the bumblebee has placed here to carry home for food
for the babies of her household.

This is going on not far from my door and yours. Have
you seen it? If not, visit a clump of butter and eggs
some sunshiny morning, watch carefully and patiently to
see what is going on, and learn a lesson which may only
be well learned out of doors.


OWN among the beech trees,
on the north slope of a rocky
hill, there is a shaded path
which I follow when I want to

* ,- see my old friends the chip-

/ -J3S&** ^ \ pC \

/ / fcj^BflT s J mun ^ s at h me - I might find

I .^^mK^=^ them elsewhere, to be sure.

Everywhere in the woods where shadows are heavy and
banks are steep, especially where old stumps and logs
occur, they are likely to be seen by one looking for them.
But this particular slope, with its dense shadow of beech,
chestnut oak, and pine, with its patched carpet of leaf mold,
torn upon jutting stones, and overspread here and there
with mats of moss, lichen, and fern, is a very congenial
home for them.

Every creature has some sort of place in which it thrives
best; and chipmunks could no more flourish on the open
uplands than could the jack-in-the-pulpits and ferns of
their own shady slopes.

Chipmunks 4 are our smallest representatives of the squir-
rel family. They are sometimes called ground squirrels;
but that name is better applied to the larger burrowing
squirrels of the fields. They are always something less



than a foot long (including the shaggy tail), of a rusty,
red-brown color above, white below, and are readily dis-
tinguished from other small animals by the presence of
five black and two white stripes upon the
back. The form is slender and graceful ;
the fur is short and glossy. The tail,
though rather long for a burrower, is not

Fl %f 5 theM W m n u*k teeth ver 7 Dusn y; a magnificent brush like that
of a fox squirrel would be a very incon-
venient appendage for a chipmunk to have to trail in wet
weather down the damp way to the door of his lowly
dwelling. The teeth, that is, the front ones (shown in
Fig. 5), are slender, curved chisels, very sharp, and strong
enough to cut easily through the hard shells of acorns and
nuts and the bark of underground stems.

Chipmunks are most likely to be seen about old logs and
stumps that are red with decay and crumbling, though an
old rail fence or a stone
wall is often their resort.
It is no accident that we
find them oftenest about
old stumps ; the rusty
red of their fur matches
the color of the rotten
wood, and they escape
the notice of their many
powerful enemies. Even
the conspicuous stripes

of black and white fall into place as lights and shadows,
and tell no tales of their presence.

If any other word is needed to tell one who has not seen
these pretty creatures how to find them, it may be said

FIG. 6. Playtime.


that it is necessary to walk quietly and to watch carefully
to see them scampering over the leaves among the under-
brush on the ground, or over fallen trees or stones. They
are likely to stop in exposed places, depending upon their
color for protection. They stop stock-still, and remain so,
and if not first seen in motion will not be seen at all.
Opera glasses, though
not necessary, will be
of delightful assistance
here, as in field study
of birds.

Many a time I have
thrown a stone to dis-
cover whether a seem-
ing brown snag on an
old log were really
alive. More than once
I have seen a chipmunk
sitting on the top of
a tall stump, where,

against a background of green leaves, it was readily seen,
and have approached so closely I thought it must be
asleep ; but, on taking a step nearer, it proved to me how
very wide awake it had been all the time.

Where are the homes of these little fellows? Down on
the hillside, not hard to find, holes here and there, under
a stone or tussock of moss or root of a tree, these are the
vestibules of their houses (Fig. 7). We walk hastily through
the woods. A brown shadow scurries across the dead
leaves, and stops instantly, bolt upright, in so stiff a position
we should not now recognize it had not our eyes been con-
stantly upon it. We approach very near, and, like a flash,

FIG. 7. At the foot of the beech tree.


the shadow disappears in the earth. And there, under a
broad, loose stone, we see the mouth of its burrow. It
stopped in its flight where, if pursued farther, a single
bound would carry it safe into its retreat. We pick up a
stick and overturn the stone, unroofing its shelter. Away
darts the shadow again, and into another and safer retreat.
What sort of a house have we found ? A narrow, crooked
passage a foot or two long, and an enlarged chamber at
the inner end, which the chipmunk hollowed out with the
labor of his tiny hands. On the floor of the chamber is a
bed of dry leaves ; scattered about are the gnawed remains
of a few nuts and acorns. This is his house, or one of his
houses, for he has several. At the foot of the beech tree
is another, in which he is now safely lodged. Its front
door opens between two great roots beside a little tuft of
ferns, and beneath an arch of lichens. But these artistic
touches nature has added for him, and if we could unroof
this house we should find it furnished only, as the other,
with a simple bed of dry leaves.

Down my woodland path these autumn days beechnuts 5
are dropping with their burry coats split in four gaping
pieces, and the rain of acorns from the chestnutoak 6 still
falls, and the chipmunks are living sumptuously. Par-
tridge berries 7 shine with waxy redness upon their turfy
terrace at the base of the pine trees ; the dark-blue fruit
of Solomon's seal 8 hangs in a graceful curve suspended
under the overarching stem ; and the great red clusters of
spikenard berries 9 are almost black with ripeness. Food
is abundant and easy to get now for bird and beast alike.
On dark days the chipmunks remain much indoors, it re-
quires so little time to pick up enough to meet their needs.
But sunshiny mornings they are out in force, and it is


worth any one's while to spend an hour in the woods,
studying their activities, finding out the place they occupy
in the world. To see their constant alertness, the winsome
gracefulness of their every movement and posture, the
utility of their color and instinctive habits, is to love nature
better and to know the life of the world more perfectly.



TRANCE little dwellings are built
on the twigs and on the leaves of
many familiar trees. They do not
look like houses ; they are of all
conceivable shapes ; naturalists
call them galls.

Everybody has seen " oak ap-
ples," and should have known that
these are the homes of little in-

Stranger than the form of these
houses is the manner in which they
are built. Sometime, when the
twig is young and rapidly grow-
ing, an insect slips in and deposits
an egg in it. Thus the site is
selected ; after that the house
grows, and its shape and size and style and finish will de-
pend upon the plant and the insect concerned.

When the egg hatches, a pale little wormlike larva slips
out of its shell and begins feeding. The plant is thus
irritated, and produces, in response, a rapid and unusual
growth about the larva, builds walls around it, as it were,



and shuts it in. There it remains until grown up, sheltered
and protected, and surrounded on all sides by the food it
likes best. If hungry it need but nibble a bit from the
inner wall of its house.

There is a pretty little trailing plant, common on wild
blue-grass sod every where, called cinquefoil^ Q\ five-finger.
It is often mistaken for wild strawberry, which it much

FIG. 8. Cinquefoil with galls at the nodes.

resembles; but its flowers are yellow, and its fruit is a
bunch of dry little seeds. There is often found at each
joint of the trailing stems a berrylike growth which might
be mistaken for its fruit (Fig. 8). This is about the size
and shape of a gooseberry, but
less smooth, and often with a
blush of red color on one side.

This is a gall; and from this
one we may learn something of
the life of a gallfly. We are not
likely to see the egg placed on
the young stems in the spring,

nor to discover the gall itself until it has grown large
enough entirely to inclose its tenant. But in early sum-
mer we can find, if we look, fuzzy little greenish swellings

FIG. 9. The cinquefoil gall and
its tenant.



at the joints of some of the trailing stems. Inside one of
these (Fig. 9), if we cut it open, we find a little white hapless
creature, wrinkled, wormlike, without head or feet. This
is the larva that hatched from the egg. A helpless thing
it is when its house is broken open. It is fitted for doing
but one thing, that the only thing necessary, feeding.
It eats and grows all the summer through ; and if we ex-
amine one in June and another in August, we see but little
difference, except in size.

The gall itself grows most rapidly in early summer;
later its walls get hard and firm ; and in autumn, after the
plant has died, it is of a somber brown. Thus it is never
very conspicuous ; but it is easiest to find in early winter and
in spring, when the leaves have fallen and when the swell-
ings stand out rather prominently upon the dry stems. In
early winter, if a gall be cut open, it will

be found that the larva

has suddenly turned into

something very different.

A pupa we call it now

(Fig. 10). It has a head

with large eyes, and a pair
FIG. 10. -Pupa of lon g ^elers, or anten-

of the cinquefoil
gallfly (enlarged).

front, long legs folded up
against the body, and short wings laid close against its
sides. But it is now more inert than ever, and little like
the active fly it will be in the future.

Eating is the business of the larvae ; pupae require no
food. They lie as if dead within the brown walls. But
this period of inactivity is making over the fat little grub
into an agile creature with flashing wings 11 (Fig. n).

nee, extending down its FIG. ii.-Anaduit gaii-

fly (enlarged).



In spring, when the tender leaves of the new growth of
cinquefoil are pushing up through the dead stems of last
year, we may see that some of the dead galls have round
holes in one side. If now we cut such a one open, we find
it empty. The pupa turned into an active gallfly (Fig. 1 1),
which gnawed the hole, crawled out of it, and flew away.
We may never see the adult fly in the field, for it is both
agile and shy ; but we can easily rear it at home, as ex-
plained farther on.

Most galls have a similar history ; and most gall-inhab-
iting insects pass through these same stages before coming
to maturity.

Some gallflies deposit their eggs so thickly upon the
shoot that the galls, in growing, crowd upon one another,
or even grow together, forming a compound
cluster. Such a cluster is the tufted gall 12
(Fig. 12), which grows upon wild blackberry
canes. Around the edge of the cluster are
to be seen a few which have escaped the
crowd, so to speak, and are entirely free from
their fellows, as shown in the figure. A
single gall is shown enlarged in Fig. 13.

The mossy gall, 13 so common in the
crotches of sweet-brier, is a similar cluster,
but more closely compacted together. In
the pithy gall, 14 which appears as a thick
swelling on blackberry canes, but contains
numerous tenants, each in a room of its own,
we have this consolidation carried to such an extreme that
the boundaries of the individual galls composing it have
been obscured.

One of the interesting things about these houses is their

FIG. 12. The
tufted gall of the



FIG. 13. A single gall from the cluster
shown in Fig. 12 (enlarged).

wonderful diversity. They differ from one another far more
widely than do the insects which make them, though these

insects may belong to sev-
eral very different groups.
They differ greatly in size,
also. The initial cut of this
chapter represents a leaf
of hackberry 15 with sev-
eral kinds of galls upon it.
Similar ones may be found
on the leaves of linden 16
and hickory. 17

In early autumn, when
the cottonwood 18 leaves,
that, swaying on their pli-
ant stems, have rustled in

all the summer breezes, making that soft chattering leaf
music so familiar and so grateful to country-bred ears,

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Online LibraryJames G. (James George) NeedhamOutdoor studies; a reading book of nature study → online text (page 1 of 6)