The other animals, even the plants, despite their mute existence and the great secrets which they nourish, do not seem wholly strangers to us. In spite of all we share with them a certain feeling of terrestrial fraternity. They surprise us : even make us marvel, but they fail to overthrow our basic concepts. The insect, on the other hand, brings with him something that does not seem to belong to the customs, the morale, the psychology of our globe. One would say that it comes from another planet, more monstrous, more dynamic, more insensate, more atrocious, more infernal than ours.
It seizes upon life with an authority and a fecundity which nothing equals here below: we cannot grasp the idea that it is a thought of that nature of which we flatter ourselves that we are the favorite children. . . . There is, without doubt, with this amazement and this incomprehension, an, I know not what, of instinctive and profound inquietude inspired by these creatures so incomparably better armed, better equipped than ourselves, these compressions of energy and activity which are our most mysterious enemies, our rivals in these latter hours, and perhaps our successors.
Everything about these animals surprises us even when, in the present stage of their mental evolution, they seem to come near us and to engage in activities which might be considered human, such as we frequently observe in the social species. We are confounded by the foresight of the harvesting ants, by the care other ants give to their plant-lice herds, by the horticultural skill of the fungus-growing species, and by the division of labor which reduces certain workers among the myrmecocysts to the condition of honey-bags. We prize our own abilities so highly that we think them unequaled, even when they are inspired by motives that are hardly commendable. We are bellicose ourselves, but it seems strange to us that colonies of bees and ants engage in battle. At times we return to barbarism by making slaves of our enemies; yet we exclaim with surprise at the habits of slave-making ants.
1 Georges Maeterlinck, J.-H. Faire et son Ceuvre (Awnales politiques et littéraires, April 2, 1911).
It is the fact that these wonderful analogies are well calculated to emphasize the contrast between the world of the articulates and our own. We have a feeling that the psychic evolution of these animals is not less original than their structure, and that they are never so widely separated from us as when they appear to resemble us the most. The old anthropocentric school is, indeed, dead: we no longer attempt to explain insects by man; we rather try to grasp the mechanism that allows these animals to evolve mentally and to acquire activities which seem human.
That was the end we had in view in writing this book. The material was extensive, but we have not used it all, because many reported observations are lacking in the necessary scientific accuracy. Moreover, ever since the work of Loeb and Jennings, research in animal psychology has been directed along a fruitful path, on which we have been happy to follow these biologists and their disciples, Bohn, Pieron, Roubaud, Turner, etc. We have also given a large place in the work to biological observations from Reaumur (" Mémoires pour servir a l'histoire des Insects") to Fabre ("Souvenirs Entomologiques"), where one may richly glean from every page. In this group, in which France occupies such a high place, we wish to mention especially Commandant Ferton,1 whose work is singularly rich and precise. I wish finally to do justice to my dear pupil, Georges Bohn, for the value of his numerous papers and for the originality of his two books, "Naissance de l'Intelligence," and "Nouvelle Psychologie Animale," as well as for the material he has sent me in the course of the present study.
1 The principal memoirs of Ferton (eight series) have been published in the Annales de la Société entomologique de France (1901-14) under the title: Notes détachées sur l'instinct des Hyménoptères melUfères et ravisseurs,.