This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V22", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
The white Chinese wax has a curious history. It is the result of an unhealthy condition aggravated by an uncongenial climate. In the province of Keen Chang there grows an abundance of the Ligustrum lucidum, an evergreen tree with pointed ovate leaves, on the twigs of which myriads of insects spread themselves like a brownish film every spring. Presently the surface of the twigs becomes mounted with a white waxy substance secreted by the insects, increasing in quantity until August, when the twigs are cut off and boiled in water; the wax rises to the surface, is melted and cooled in pans. It was discovered that by transporting the insects to a less genial climate, the amount of wax was vastly increased by preventing their breeding. You meet hundreds of wax merchants, each carrying his load of female insects to the wax farms, over a journey rough and long, and a fortnight's sun would precipitate the hatching, which should take place after the females have been attached to the trees. The birth of the young is the signal for the death of the parent; six or seven of their prolific mothers are wrapped in a palm leaf and tied to a branch of the Ligustrum, when soon swarms of infinitesmal insects creep forth and cluster on the twigs, where they fulfil their mission.
Baron Richthoven considers the value of the annual crop to be on an average upwards of thirty-two millions of dollars, and during 1878 there was exported from one port upwards of forty-one thousand dollars worth of it. Pretty well for an insect.
The Cawthorp Oak in England continues to attract admiration as their largest tree. The size of the roomy hollow of its stem may be estimated when it is stated that seventy children were packed in it at one time. It is but a cripple.