A week ago Pehr KalmKalm, Pehr (1716-1779).
Swedish. Botanist and traveller,
professor of natural history at
Åbo. Disciple of Linnaeus.
Travelled in North America 1748-1751.
Correspondent of Linnaeus. wrote to Linnaeus [this letter has not come down to us] and enclosed a lot of the seeds he collected last summer. Before that he wrote from Canada [Kalm to Linnaeus, 10 september 1749Letter L1040], and, in November, from New York [this letter has not come down to us], and from Philadelphia in December, or January [there are two letters from Kalm to Linnaeus, written i Philadelphia, 10 December 1749Letter L1062 and 26 February 1750Letter L1103]. This winter has been very cold. The coldest day was January 4: 24 degrees below zero, according to Celsius. A sure sign that it would be a hard winter was the hordes of squirrels that invaded the woodlands to collect acorns, chestnuts, and various kinds of nuts. They also attacked the maize fields. Because of the damage they cause, there is a premium paid for shooting them, but without noticeable effect. There are several species of squirrels, well described and depicted in Marc Catesby’sCatesby, Mark (1682-1749).
British. Naturalist and artist. Best
known for his illustrated work The
Natural history of Carolina, Florida and
the Bahama islands (1736-1743).
Correspondent of Linnaeus. , The Natural History of CarolinaCatesby, Mark The Natural
history of Carolina, Florida and the
Bahama Islands: containing the figures
of birds, beasts, fishes, serpents,
insects and plants: particularly the
forest-trees, shrubs, and other plants,
not hitherto described, or very
incorrectly figured by authors. Together
with their descriptions in English and
French. To which are added observations
on the air, soil, and wate: with remarks
upon agriculture, grain, pulse, roots,
&c. To the whole is prefixed a new
and correct map of the countries treated
of, I-II (London 1731-1743). , volume II. What makes it difficult to control the squirrels is that they often operate at night. Many can witness that the squirrels can raid whole acres of maize fields because they come in hundreds. Fleas are indigenous, and no building is without them. The shrill Swedish crickets have no equals in America. In Canada they did not know of Toraka, only that they were common in the English colonies. The Swedes call them ”brödätare” [breadeaters], the Dutch call them Kackerlack, and the English name is cockroaches. They hide in old wood, and in this way they enter the houses. Some people think that they originate in South America. Many believe that they can hide in your ears and cause incredible pain. If you fill your ear with water, they disappear. There are insects that shine in the dark, and here it really is pitch-dark. In summer these fireflies, ”eldflugor” in Swedish, ”mouches du feu” in French, light up the night. Kalm names them Cassida plumbea and gives a very detailed description of them.
The premiums paid for shooting squirrels have emptied the State’s exchequer. It was too easy to earn money by showing heads of killed squirrels. Many left their homesteads because killing squirrels was more lucrative. Another animal worth mentioning is the black bird; the Swedes call it ”maize thief”. It is well described in Catesby’s The Natural History of Carolina, volume I. It attacks the new-sown maize fields in hundreds and cause enormous damage. The State pays a premium for each killed bird, which has led to an almost total extinction of this species in New England. Now they have second thoughts about this measure. In the absence of this bird, a prolific growth of a grassworm is going on that is now destroying all the vegetation in fields and meadows. Kalm sends his regards to all friends and supporters, and concludes: ”Dear teacher, always have me in mind!”