Interesting Facts About Insects – Top 10 Fun Facts About Insects!

Interesting Facts About Insects – Top 10 Fun Facts About Insects!

Interesting Facts About Insects – Top 10 Fun Facts About Insects!

Weaver Ant (Oecophylla smaragdina). Image credit: berniedup, CC BY-SA 2.0)

1. There are more insects in the world than any other group of animals on Earth.

A collage of beetles made from images uploaded by User:Fir0002. Clockwise from top left: female golden stag beetle (Lamprima aurata), rhinoceros beetle (Megasoma sp.), long nose weevil (Rhinotia hemistictus), cowboy beetle (Chondropyga dorsalis), and a species of Amblytelus. Image credit: Bugboy52.40, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Though you’ve probably guessed that already after seeing ants, butterflies and beetles everywhere. Scientists estimate that insects make up to 90% of all species of animals on the planet and more than half of all living things. They can be found in almost every habitat, from snowy mountain peaks to scorching deserts and they have been around for more than 400 million years, longer than dinosaurs and flowering plants!

The largest order of insects is Coleoptera or the order of true beetles, which is comprised of 300,000 to 400,000 species. The next largest is the Lepidoptera, the order of butterflies and moths, followed by the Diptera, the true flies and then the Hymenoptera, the order of ants, bees and wasps. Alone, all the ants in the world combined weigh as much as all the humans, and to think that it would take more than a million ants to weigh as much as one human. Wow, we sure are outnumbered!

2. Mosquitoes bite more when there is a full moon.

Female Ochlerotatus notoscriptus feeding on a human arm. Image credit: JJ Harrison, GNU.

Scientists haven’t determined the reason yet but studies show that mosquitoes are more active during a full moon. In fact, they can bite up to 500% more. So the next time there’s a full moon out, you might want to get that bug spray ready.

Oh, full moon or not, larger people, pregnant women, fidgety people, those who sweat a lot and those with smelly feet are always more attractive targets to mosquitoes for various reasons. And if you move a lot when a mosquito is nearby, you’re 50% more likely to get bitten. Now, that’s one reason to sit still.

3. Butterflies taste with their feet.

Brush-footed butterfly by plastAnka, (CC BY 2.0)

We taste with our tongues but insects don’t have a tongue. Instead, they taste with their antennae or their mouthparts. At least, most of them do. Butterflies taste their food in a unique way. They taste with their feet!

Butterflies land on their food, using special chemical receptors in their feet to find out the taste of the food before consuming it. Also, when the time comes for the female butterfly to lay eggs, she goes from plant to plant, landing on their leaves and drumming her feet. In this way, she can tell if the plant’s leaves will be tasty enough for her caterpillars to eat. Caterpillars spend most of the time eating, after all, in order to grow, and they stay in just one plant, consuming as many of its leaves as it can. If they hatch on the wrong plant, they might not eat at all and we all know what happens to living creatures that don’t eat – they die.

4. Moths can’t fly during an earthquake.

Moth in Flight by Matt Salas, (CC BY 2.0)

From butterflies, we go to moths, their cousins. Did you know that moths can’t fly when there’s an earthquake? (Though you probably wouldn’t notice it since you’d be busy scrambling to safety, as you should.)

Why? Even scientists aren’t sure but they believe that moths use a gyroscopic system to fly – their wings and antennae act as a gyroscope, which is like some sort of spinning wheel suspended in three rings. As you can tell, it’s not a very stable system which is why moths aren’t the best of flyers, often fluttering restlessly about. And when there’s an earthquake, it becomes even more unstable, making it difficult or even impossible for them to get a grasp of their surroundings and keep their balance, which is why they remain perfectly still. They’re probably safer that way.

Another fun fact about moths? Some of them don’t have mouths. After coming out of their cocoons and developing into adults, they don’t eat. They simply look for a mate and then lay eggs, which they have about a week to accomplish before dying.

5. Some fireflies sometimes flash their lights in unison.

Several insects can glow but fireflies are the only insects that can flash their lights on and off. They can do this because of a compound called luciferin that they carry in their bodies. When this chemical comes in contact with air, it glows. Amazingly, fireflies produce the most efficient light in all the world. All of the energy is used up as light and none as heat.

Fireflies flash their lights to warn predators that they don’t taste good and to attract mates. Each species has their own flashing pattern just like some of us have our own languages. One species, appropriately called synchronous fireflies, sometimes flash their lights all at the same time during the two week-long mating season, creating quite a show. This attracts the attention of the females in the area, who can then choose their mate.

6. Dung beetles roll their balls of poop in a straight line.

Dung beetles and a ball of dung. Image creditRafael Brix, GNU.

Dung beetles are yucky, we know, because they deal with, well, dung, eating it, living in it and even laying their eggs in it. Yup, they’re well-named. But they can also be amazing. Those that roll dung into balls, for example – and not all dung beetles do this – roll their dung balls to their nests in a straight line, using the stars in the Milky Way as their compass. Now, there’s a creature that doesn’t need GPS.

By the way, dung beetles are very strong animals. They may be small but they can roll poop up to ten times their own weight. That’s like a man trying to roll a fully grown cow. And remember, they do it in straight lines.

7. Honeybees like to dance.

Dance of a Worker Bee by Ano Lobb. @healthyrx, (CC BY 2.0)

We all know that bees buzz but did you know some honeybees are good dancers? These are the bee scouts. You see, bees live in hives and most of them are workers. Some of these workers are scouts, which means they go out in search of food. Once they find food, they return to the hive and tell the others where the food is. How? They dance, of course.

If the source of food is not that far away, they do the round dance, which is just like flying in a circle but first to one side and then to the other instead of flying in a continuous circle. If the source of food is far, they do the waggle dance, which is like flying in a figure eight. The speed at which they fly indicates how far the food actually is.

8. Ants have two stomachs.

Weaver_Ant_(Oecophylla smaragdina)
Weaver Ant (Oecophylla smaragdina). Image credit: berniedup, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Speaking of ants, some ants have two stomachs. In one, they can store and digest the food that they eat. In the other, they store food for their fellow ants, especially the queen and the larvae. Some ants store so much food in this second stomach that they swell to the size of a grape! Just think of them as living, walking pantries. Whenever food is needed, all they do is regurgitate the food contained in the second stomach or throw it up, so to speak, so it can be eaten by others. This food is practically the same as when it was eaten. It isn’t digested and so is easily regurgitated. The food in the first stomach is digested using gastric juices and so cannot be regurgitated. Rather, it is absorbed by the ant’s body to provide it with nutrition.

9. Female scorpionflies like getting presents.

Female_Scorpionfly_(Panorpa helena)
Female Scorpionfly (Panorpa helena). Image credit: acryptozoo, (CC BY 2.0)

Or more accurately, bribes. You see, a female scorpionfly will only mate with a male if he has a present for her and we’re not talking about flowers or chocolates but caterpillars, bugs and flies that have been captured alive. The female inspects the present up close and if it is good enough, the mating will begin, though it will only last as long as the female is eating so the bigger the present, the more chances the male has of depositing his sperm in the female’s body. If the female is not satisfied with the present, she will simply fly away and another male will have his turn to impress while the poor male has to go in search of a better gift.

10. In some parts of the world, crickets are considered good luck charms.

Grilo cricket bby N. Feans, (CC BY 2.0)

In Chinese, Japanese and some Native American cultures, crickets are considered good luck charms, symbols of prosperity because of the fact that they lay hundreds of eggs and because of their amazing leaping ability.

If a cricket crosses your path then, consider yourself lucky, or if a cricket is chirping right inside your house. That is unless you’re in northern Brazil where the chirping of a cricket is said to signify death and so it is immediately killed.


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