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Insects are very interesting animals to collect, or to watch, or to photograph.

Also for a Scout who fishes, or studies birds or reptiles, it is most important that he should know a certain amount about the insects which are their favourite foods at different times of the year or different hours of the day.

About bees alone whole books have been written-for they have wonderful powers in making their honeycomb, in finding their way for miles, sometimes as far as six miles, to find the right kind of flowers for giving them the sugary juice for making honey, and getting back with it to the hive. They are quite a model community, for they respect their queen and kill those who won't work.

Then some insects are useful as food. Locusts-a big kind of grasshopper-are eaten in India and South Africa. We were very glad to get a flight or two of them over Mafeking. When they settled on the ground we beat them down, with empty sacks, as they turned to rise. They were then dried in the sun and pounded up and eaten. Ants make a substitute for salt.

Ants as Life Savers

I have known another case of ants being useful-in fact they were not only useful but saved the lives of several men.

These men were a party of scientific professors who were hiking in the wilds of Australia, searching for rare plants and animals, reptiles and bugs.

Out in the desert they ran out of water. For hours they struggled on, maddened with thirst and weak with exhaustion. It looked as though, like many explorers before them, they would collapse and die. Luckily, to their great relief, a small aborigine girl appeared.

They made a sign to her that they were dying of thirst and wanted her to go and fetch water.

In reply she pointed to a string of ants which were climbing up a baobab tree. (This tree has a great fat hollow trunk which thus forms a sort of water tank.)

The little girl picked a long stalk of dried grass and climbed up to a little hole in the trunk which the ants were running into. She put one end of the straw down this hole and the other end into her mouth and sucked up water.

In this way the wild little imp of the desert taught the learned gentlemen a valuable bit of knowledge which with all their school and college education they did not possess.

I hope that had a Scout been with them he would have been wise to the idea, or at any rate would have used his eyes and wits and would have noticed the ants at their work and guessed why they were using that hole in the tree.

Watching Insects

It doesn't sound very exciting to watch insects, but the great French naturalist, Henri Fabre, the son of peasants, spent days in studying the lives and habits of insects, and found out all kinds of curious things about them. He became world famous for his studies. Some insects are our friends-such as the silkworm and the ladybird or "ladybug"-but others are our enemies. They destroy vegetables and attack flowers. You all know how the mosquito spreads such dangerous diseases as malaria and yellow fever. And I need not remind you of how the house-fly can carry disease germs- that is why, in camp as well as at home, all food should be kept carefully covered, and no dirt or rubbish be allowed to lie about.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation


Learn A Continuation:

to the next page: Patrol Practices In Animal Observation

Back in The Past:

to the previous page: Reptiles

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