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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The House-Cricket
By Gilbert White (1720–1793)
 
Letter to the Hon. Daines Barrington: from ‘The Natural History of Selborne’

WHILE many other insects must be sought after in fields, and woods, and waters, the Gryllus domesticus, or house-cricket, resides altogether within our dwellings; intruding itself upon our notice whether we will or no. This species delights in new-built houses: being, like the spider, pleased with the moisture of the walls; and besides, the softness of the mortar enables them to burrow and mine between the joints of the bricks or stones, and to open communications from one room to another. They are particularly fond of kitchens and bakers’ ovens, on account of their perpetual warmth.  1
  Tender insects that live abroad either enjoy only the short period of one summer, or else doze away the cold, uncomfortable months in profound slumbers; but these, residing as it were in a torrid zone, are always alert and merry: a good Christmas fire is to them like the heats of the dog-days. Though they are frequently heard by day, yet is their natural time of motion only in the night. As soon as it grows dusk, the chirping increases, and they come running forth, ranging from the size of a flea to that of their full stature. As one should suppose from the burning atmosphere which they inhabit, they are a thirsty race, and show a great propensity for liquids; being found frequently drowned in pans of water, milk, broth, or the like. Whatever is moist they affect; and therefore often gnaw holes in wet woolen stockings and aprons that are hung to the fire. They are the housewife’s barometer, foretelling her when it will rain; and they prognosticate sometimes, she thinks, good or ill luck,—the death of near relatives or the approach of an absent lover. By being the constant companions of her solitary hours, they naturally become the objects of her superstition. These crickets are not only very thirsty but very voracious, for they will eat the scummings of pots, and yeast, salt and crumbs of bread, and any kitchen offal or sweepings. In the summer we have observed them to fly out of the windows when it became dusk, and over the neighboring roofs. This feat of activity accounts for the sudden manner in which they often leave their haunts, as it does for the method by which they come to houses where they were not known before. It is remarkable that many sorts of insects seem never to use their wings but when they have a mind to shift their quarters and settle new colonies. When in the air they move volatu undoso, “in waves and curves,” like woodpeckers; opening and shutting their wings at every stroke: and so are always rising or sinking.  2
  When they increase to a great degree, as they did once in the house where I am now writing, they become noisome pests, flying into the candles and dashing into people’s faces; but may be blasted and destroyed by gunpowder discharged into their crevices and crannies.  3
  In families at such times, they are like Pharaoh’s plague of frogs,—in their bedchambers, and upon their beds, and in their ovens, and in their kneading-troughs. Their shrilling noise is occasioned by a brisk attrition of their wings. Cats catch hearth crickets, and play with them as they do with mice, and then devour them. Crickets may be destroyed, like wasps, by phials half filled with beer, or any other liquid, and set in their haunts; for being always eager to drink, they will crowd in till the bottles are full.  4
 
 
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