An Ant or Pismire.

Hooke describes the ant’s appearance and his method of keeping the busy creature still.

‘Troublesom to be drawn’

This was a creature, more troublesom to be drawn, then any of the rest, for I could not, for a good while, think of a way to make it suffer its body to ly quiet in a natural posture; but whil’st it was alive, if its feet were fetter’d in Wax or Glew, it would so twist and wind its body, that I could not any wayes get a good view of it; and if I killed it, its body was so little, that I did often spoile the shape of it, before I could throughly view it: for this is the nature of these minute Bodies, that as soon, almost, as ever their life is destroy’d, their parts immediately shrivel, and lose their beauty […].

Smelling his finger

It was more then half the bigness of an Earwig, of a dark brown, or reddish colour, with long legs, on the hinder of which it would stand up, and raise its head as high as it could above the ground, that it might stare the further about it, […] and putting my finger towards them, they have at first all run towards it, till almost at it; and then they would stand round about it, at a certain distance, and smell, as it were, and consider whether they should any of them venture any further, till one more bold then the rest venturing to climb it, all the rest, if I would have suffered them, would have immediately followed: many such other seemingly rational actions I have observ’d in this little Vermine with much pleasure […].

Hooke’s solution

Having insnar’d several of these into a small Box, I made choice of the tallest grown among them, and separating it from the rest, I gave it a Gill of Brandy, or Spirit of Wine, which after a while e’en knock’d him down dead drunk, so that he became moveless, though at first putting in he struggled for a pretty while very much, till at last, certain bubbles issuing out of its mouth, it ceased to move; this (because I had before found them quickly to recover again, if they were taken out presently) I suffered to lye above an hour in the Spirit; and after I had taken it out, and put its body and legs into a natural posture, remained moveless about an hour; but then, upon a sudden, as if it had been awaken out of a drunken sleep, it suddenly reviv’d and ran away; being caught, and serv’d as before, he for a while continued struggling and striving, till at last there issued several bubbles out of its mouth, and then […] he remained moveless for a good while…

Description of the ant and his armour

[I]t had […] two protuberant eyes, pearl’d like those of a Fly, but smaller; out of the Nose, or foremost part, issued two horns, of a shape sufficiently differing from those of a blew Fly, though indeed they seem to be both the same kind of Organ, and to serve for a kind of smelling; beyond these were two indented jaws, which he open’d side-wayes, and was able to gape them asunder very wide; and the ends of them being armed with teeth, which meeting went between each other, it was able to grasp and hold a heavy body, three or four times the bulk and weight of its own body: It had only six legs, shap’d like those of a Fly, which, as I shewed before, is an Argument that it is a winged Insect, and though I could not perceive any sign of them in the middle part of its body (which seem’d to consist of three joints or pieces, out of which sprung two legs), yet ’tis known that there are of them that have long wings, and fly up and down in the air.


The third and last part of its body was bigger and larger then the other two, unto which it was joyn’d by a very small middle, and had a kind of loose shell, or another distinct part of its body, which seem’d to be interpos’d, and to keep the thorax and belly from touching.

The whole body was cas’d over with a very strong armour, and the belly III was covered likewise with multitudes of small white shining brisles; the legs, horns, head, and middle parts of its body were bestuck with hairs also, but smaller and darker.