This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Inhabiting dry rocky places, knowing no cultivation, this creature shuns man's presence, and works in his behoof by destroying insects and their larvae, also woodlice and other pests; yet seldom is opportunity lost of compassing its destruction.
Sandy heaths, more frequented by men than formerly, are now less freed of insects than when this "creeping thing" was less disturbed and had greater security for its life.
At the very sight of this snake-like creature some persons shriek, and not a few rustics shrink, so long do superstitious ideas endure; therefore, there is time for flight or courage to summon into destruction. Thus the blind-worm, useful in destroying worms, slugs and insects, ceases more and more to exist.
Dread of snakes so possesses mankind that all, even the harmless, are ruthlessly destroyed whenever found, and this despite of service rendered in devouring voles and mice, slugs, woodlice, insects and their larvae.
In better repute, no one wilfully kills the frog, as it is not under saint and bard ban, like the serpent and toad; therefore it lives to benefit all mankind by destroying worms, slugs, woodlice, millipedes, insects and their larvae, including leather-jackets and wireworms, also gnats engendered in marshy places.
Ugly, ungainly and unprepossessing, the toad makes amends by feeding upon slugs, woodlice, flies, earwigs and other insects, including their larvae, such as caterpillars: for everything lacking in appearance, it is one of the most valuable creatures to the forester, farmer and gardener.
The newts are to water and damp spots what the toad is to land in drier places, feeding upon small worms, slugs, wood-lice and insects.
The newts (Triton taeniatus) and great water-newt (T. cristatus) are sometimes placed in water-lily tubs, and kept there by means of a zinc rim two inches wide all round top of tub, so as to project one inch over the water, the water being kept two inches lower than the rim. A few large pieces of cork bark are also fixed to float, forming a small island on which is set a fern in moss and a little soil, securing the cork with copper wire, so it cannot float to side. This island is for newts and tritons to get on and attract flies, etc., which they catch and eat. The "island" is imperative for the newts to get on, for they won't live if always under water.
Probably no other creature is so feared in Britain as the viper, and on account of its retaliatory habits when cornered or trodden upon receives no quarter from man. Although useful in destroying grass voles and other vegetarian pests, its dangerous nature to man and beast cause it to be inconsistent with cultivation and civilized life.