Y OU have been told that an insect is a living creature with a body made in rings, and divided into three parts. Most insects have six legs, four wings, and two feelers.
There is a great Order of insects which we shall call the hook-wing family.
The wasp, the bee, the saw-fly, and ant belong to this family. They are the chief of all the insects. They can do many strange and curious things.
You will know insects of this great family by their wings. The front wings are larger than the back ones. They fold back over them when at rest.
In flight the upper wings hook fast to the lower.
If you look carefully at some kinds of insects, you will soon think I have told you what is not quite true. Why will you think that? You will say to me, "The fly has two wings, and not four." "The ant has no wings at all."
Ah, but wait until you study about ants and flies, and see what you will think then.
The mouth of all the hook-wing insects has two jaws for cutting or for carrying things. The mouth is nearly as wide as the head.
Above the mouth are two knobs. These knobs are two big eyes, one on each side of the head. Between the two big eyes they have some little ones, on the top of the head.
You see insects are as well supplied with eyes as crabs are with legs.
The back part of the body of many insects is made fast to the middle part by a small joint, or thread. That is because these insects need to bend, or even double up, in some of their work.
The Hook-wing Order is divided into two great kinds.
The insects of one kind carry a little saw. The others carry a sword. The sword is a sting. The saw is to cut up leaves and wood to make nice soft nests or houses for the eggs. The sword is to fight with, or to kill things for food. Among the saw-carriers is the fine, long fly, called a saw-fly. Bees, ants, wasps, and others carry the sting.
Get one of these insects, and you will see all the parts of which I have told you. Let us first take an ant to look at.
The head of an ant seems very large for its body, and the eyes seem very large for the head. They look as if they would be heavy for the little ant to carry.
On the under part of the body which is next the head are set the six legs. These legs and the feet have joints.
On the upper side of this same second part of the body are set the wings. There are four wings, two large and two small ones. The upper pair are larger than the lower ones.
The third or back part of an ant's body is made of six rings. On the tip or pointed end of this hind part is the sting.
Now I hear you cry out, "O, my ant has no wings!" Well, let me tell you a secret. The wings of your ant have been cut off, or unhooked, as you shall hear by and by.
There are many families of ants. Each has its own name and its own ways. All ants are very wise in their actions. I shall tell you many strange things about them. Ants have always been called "the wise insects." Would you not like to learn about their homes, their children, and their way of life?
Before you study the ants in any book, I wish you would go out into your garden or into the fields. Find an ant-hill, and sit or lie by it for an hour or so. Take some sugar or bits of cake to feed the ants. Find out for yourselves all that you can about them. Facts that you learn in this way will be worth very much to you. Be careful and do not disturb the hill or alarm the ants.