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
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?