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Insects Don't Sing— They
Fabian's Notes For The Bush lover
NOW that the year is turn ing into summer the. voices of insects about us □ re becomina more insistent out
of doors, especially at night. But the strange thing is that they are not strictly 'voices' at all. No doubt most of us think of all these little creatures as 'singing,' as producing their sounds by the mouth parts, like birds or animals. It Is, perhaps, natural to imagine that, but with insects the mouth or the head has nothing to do with the assorted chirp ings, buzzings, and stridulatlons of all sorts that we now hear on these 'lis- tening summer eves.' I have come to think of it as an orchestra, not a chorus. It is instru mental music, not vocal. Insects do not sing, and they have no voices, not even wind instruments. Fiddle and bow, drums and tabors and 'bones' are the sound-makers in the thin Jazz or chestra of the insects. It is pleasant on calm evenings to listen to that quiet symphony of small things and to let the imagination play. The blend ing of insect sounds does not seem to disturb the silence. It is remarkable how these little lives have evolved such, a variety of sounds without the breath ing apparatus coming into it at all. Whirring Crickets T'HE whirring of mole crickets is usu ally prominent in the out-of-doors medley. This insect Is one of the fiddlers of the band. He has a rough file on the upper wings and a scraper near it, and he scrapes to some pur pose. Grasshoppers also, scrape a file ike process over their hard wing covers to make that loud screaking of theirs really a love serenade; and there Is a sort of membrane sounding-board to Increase the racket. The cicadas are the drummers. After dark various sorts of small cicadas In the bushes and the grass vibrate their little body drums, and rubbing has nothing to do with 'voice' In their case. Loudest of all are the double drummers, Floury Bakers, Green Mun days, and other large tree cicadas whose monottme shrilling fills the whole bush in some places. The big hollow 'drums' under the body can be easily examined. The humming of such insects as blowflies, bees and mosquitoes is made simply by the rapid vibration of their wings— nothing else. Our death-watch
beetles, like those of Europe, cause a rather uncanny sound indoors at the dead of night by tapping floor or fur niture with their hard heads. Even certain Australian spiders can produce sounds, and we have 'whistling moths.' Not one opens his mouth to sing or call. They are instrumentalists, and their own bodies are the instruments. Platypus In Verse T Haven't noticed any Australian poetic tributes to our mammal reptile-blrd zoological freak, the platy pus, but lately I came across an ex travagant tribute to it by the English writer of humorous verse. Patrick Bar rlngton; and shortly afterwards this comic comment by another English writer, Oliver Herford:s. 'My child, the Duck-billed Platypus A sad example Jets lor us. Prom him we learn how Indecision Of character provokes Derision. This vacillating Thin';, you sec, Could not decide which he would be, Fish, Flesh, or Fowl, and choose all three. The scientists were sorely vexed To classify him; so perplexed Their brains, that. they, with Rage nt bay, Called him a horrid name one day — A name thc.t baffles, frights and shocks us, Ornlthorhynchus Paradoxus.' By the way, there is also an insect platypus. The name means 'flat foot,' and was bestowed upon a wood boring beetle before the duckbill was known to science. So if we ever hear the complaint that the platypus is a pest, we will know that the insect is meant, not the 'paradoxus.' Beautiful Pigeon rPHE big wonga and the white headed pigeon and others may have almost disappeared from the sides of scrub tracks in many districts, for our native pigeons' continue to get scarcer, but one very beautiful bird that is considered a great rarity In the South continues to be' plentiful herein Queensland— the little green pigeon. I have frequently come upon it feed ing by a narrow pad, a most handsome little short-tailed fellow whom it is al ways a pleasure to meet. Perhaps something of its adornment may be gathered from Its scientific title, Chal cophaps (bronze pigeon) chrysochlora (golden and yellow-green). Even that does no justice to the rich cinnamon of the body. The green shades on the wings are exquisite, and the clean white patch on each shoulder is very prominent. I've seen the little green pigeon feeding busily upon the fallen black Beeds of the black wattle, which are as
hard as glass. As you come along it rises with a whirr, but never goes off over the treetops. It invariably keeps low and drops suddenly again into the thick undergrowth of the scrubs. It seems to Ije completely a ground feeder, preferring fallen berries to those still on the trees. In places like Tamborlne Mountain one hears frequently throughout the day the distinctly mournful cooing of hidden, greenwlngs, though the call is rather too drawn-out to be called a coo. The nests, flattish and poorly put together thatches of twigs, are usually quite low down in tangled scrub vegetation, and are not often found. It is good to see this pretty little native pigeon holding its own so well, but it depends upon the scrubs, and it must go when they go. The Snake's Poison ]yjR. KJEITH C. McKEOWN'S new book. 'The Land of Byamee,' deals with Australian aboriginal nature legends of long ago. and one -of these tells how the snake came by its poison. In the beginning of the world, says this ancient tribal tale, only the goanna (who was then a giant and a man killer, and the enemy of all) possessed poison, which he keot in his mouth in a bag. There was a great meeting of all the creatures of the bush to make plans for stealing the goanna's poison, and each bird and animal spoke in turn. ? Finally, the cunning snake volun teered to visit the goanna's camp. He did so. and pretended great friendship. He told the coanna of seri ous plots against his life, and offered to reveal them if the great man-eater would only make him feel safer by re moving the famous poison-bag from his mouth. The goanna at last agreed, but the snake suddenly seized the bag and popped it into his own mouth. when the- bird and animal tribes heard the news there was great re joicing, and all flocked to the snake's camp -to help in the destruction of the poison-bag. But the treacherous snake laughed at them. 'Now the power is mine,' he said. 'I'm going to keep it, and anyone who interferes with me will be poisoned.' And lie has kept It in his mouth ever cince, becoming the enemy of all creatures.