Devoured by worms, like Herod, was the town.
Nine hundred thousand reptiles blue.
IT is a delightful thing to own an orchard, but it is a blessing not to be enjoyed without fighting for it, since among the difficulties of reclaiming a place, one cannot ignore the necessary hand-to-hand conflict with the various animal and vegetable enemies which lie in wait to destroy plants and trees. Eternal vigilance is the price of vegetation as well as of liberty, and the cultivator who dreams that he can for a moment take his ease in his inn, reckons without his guests of the insect-world, who take short naps, and require as much nourishment as Falstaff. I shall have more to say upon this subject at a later date, but the Apple-trees remind me of conflicts with the web-worm, and I find a treatise upon his manners and customs apropos. As an example of pertinacity, Brace's spider beside him pales her ineffectual fires; as an evidence of the apathetic stupidity of man he is unrivaled, and as a menace of future untold horrors he may well be used to point a moral of gruesome interest.
Some philosopher has said that "the real end of the world will come when man ceases to be able to cope with the insects." When his time comes the worm is the master of us all, but there is no reason while we are yet stirring about this earthly ball, that we need submit to be devoured by him before our day. And yet, when you come to think of it, that is what the brute is after. Too cowardly to attack man openly, he begins by eating up his provender. Man, being on the whole an easy-going animal, at first pays not much attention; but he only multiplies moderately, and the insect enormously. "Where a man will leave a half dozen descendants in a lifetime, a worm will leave one hundred and twenty-five thousand in a season; judge then if this can be allowed to go on indefinitely, and man survive!
Where the inane apathy of the human being comes in, is in not crushing his enemy while yet insignificant; forever penny wise and pound foolish, man tolerates a moderate evil until it becomes inordinate, and then wastes a fortune which might well have been saved, in doing ineffectual battle with his foe. It is the fable of Epimetheus forever renewed, and the appeal I would now make is to have this Pandora's box closed before the rest of the web-worms escape to plague the world, and help make an end of the race.
It is idle to scoff at this idea as that of an alarmist. A few years ago the spring web-worm was an unimportant factor in our orchards. The fall worm gave some trouble, but he was not impossible to cope with. Now, not only do we have to fight for every apple we possess in the autumn, but all through the months of April and May, when work presses, when every moment is precious, it takes not only all the hands on a farm to fight caterpillars, but also all the eyes of the family to detect their lurking-places; and this not as one job, but as a perpetually recurring duty for weeks at a time, and all on account of the crying neglect by land-owners of their premises, and by town authorities of the webs on their own highways, which have been allowed to accumulate, until the country roads have lost their beauty, lined as they are with trees shrouded from root to summit in ghostly webs, under which myriads of loathsome black worms writhe and crawl, and eat their fill, to the shuddering disgust of the wayfarer.