The Story Of The Rain Barrel

: Keep-well Stories For Little Folks

O John! did you know that I almost fell on my head into the rain barrel

at the corner of the house this morning? I was looking at the picture of

myself in the water, when, all of a sudden, I saw the funniest little

things darting everywhere in the water. I forgot to look at myself or to

make any more faces at the broad face of the little boy at the bottom of

the rain barrel. There were lots of these queer little things in the

rain water. They were turning somersaults and standing on their heads

every few minutes. Here is a picture of one. I tried to catch some in my

hands, but they were too quick for me; they would just wiggle out of

reach. This was why I nearly fell on my head.

I ran into the house to ask Mother about them. Mothers know a lot, don't

they, John? At least, mine does. I just knew she could tell me all about

these queer little things in the rain barrel. When I asked her to tell

me, she put her sewing down and went to the rain barrel with me. As soon

as she looked she said she was so glad that I had come for her, that she

would tell me all about these little "wiggle-tails," and that I could

help her destroy them, as they would do much harm if they grew up.

She said that they were the little baby mosquitoes. Isn't that funny? I

did not know that mosquitoes lived in the water, even when they were

babies, did you? I will tell you just what Mother said. She said that if

I were near a pond or rain barrel, or even an old tin can, in which

water was standing, early in the morning before the sun was up, I could

hear Mrs. Mosquito come singing merrily to the water, and that if I

watched and did not disturb her, I could see her rest lightly on the

water and lay her eggs there in a little brown boat or raft-shaped mass,

little eggs like these. The mosquito mother now thinks her duty to her

children is done, for, after she lays her eggs on the water, she goes

off singing, never thinking of them again.

If nothing disturbs it, the boat of eggs floats on the water a little

longer than a day, when all of a sudden the shells of the eggs begin to

break and the little "wiggle-tails" hatch, or come out of the shells.

These funny little "wiggle-tails" go frisking about in the water. They

dive here and there down into the water, hunting for something to eat.

These are the baby mosquitoes. They are very queer looking, with their

big heads and eyes and a funny little tube at the tail end of their

bodies. They push this tube up out of the water to get air to breathe. I

saw a number of them push these little tubes up to the top of the water,

but, when I got close to them, down to the bottom of the barrel they

would dive, head foremost, as if they were scared. They soon had to come

up again for another breath of air.

Mother said that if no one disturbed them they would eat germs and all

sorts of little water plants for about two weeks, growing all the time.

At the end of that time, each one would curl himself into a cocoon, like

a ball, called a pupa. After about four days of rest and growing in this

cocoon, the case would break and out would come a thing with wings, a

full-grown mosquito. It would stand on its case or cocoon, dry its wings

in the sun, and then fly away to begin life as a mosquito.

Mother said she did not want to give the little "wiggle-tails" a chance

to become mosquitoes, and that if I would bring her some oil from the

kitchen pantry, she would show me how to kill the little "wiggle-tails."

I ran for the oil, oil just like that your Mamma burns in her lamps.

Mother poured a few spoonfuls in the rain barrel, and that was the end

of Mr. Wiggle-tail. The oil kept the "wiggle-tails" from getting any air

to breathe through their funny breathing tubes, and they smothered.

Mother says we must have a Mosquito Brigade and go about the place

killing all the mosquitoes; that we must not let water stand in any tin

cans or barrels; and that we must pour oil in the ditches and ponds

where water stands and where the mosquitoes can lay eggs. The mosquito

will not lay eggs on the dry land, for the "wiggle-tails" cannot take

care of themselves on dry land, and the mosquito mothers know this.

It seems to me that Dame Nature, as Mother calls her, has taught many

wonderful secrets to her children.

Mother told me why she wanted to kill all the "wiggle-tails." I will

tell you about it to-morrow, if you will come to the grape-vine swing

with me.


1. What did the little boy see in the rain barrel?

Why couldn't he catch them?

2. How did the "wiggle-tails" get into the barrel?

3. Why do they have to come to the top of the

water so often?

4. Why did the little boy's mother want to destroy

or kill the little "wiggle-tails"?

5. What is a Mosquito Brigade? Can't we have one

in our school?