Interesting Facts About Insects – Top 10 Incredible Insect Facts!

Praying Mantis. Stared into the camera and cocked its head. Image credit: Joi, (CC BY 2.0)

Interesting Facts About Insects – Top 10 Incredible Insect Facts!

Praying Mantis. Stared into the camera and cocked its head. Image credit: Joi, (CC BY 2.0)

Have you ever heard of the saying ‘Great things come in small packages’? Well, insects are a proof of it. Indeed, while these creepy crawlies may be among the smallest on the planet, they can have amazing features and abilities. Just look at these ten incredible examples.

1. Honeybees can remember every flower they’ve been to… and human faces, too.

Honey Bee by eleZeta, (CC BY 2.0)

The brain of a honeybee is just about the size of a sesame seed but various studies have proved that they can remember a lot. They can recognize flowers by smell and by color – though they can’t see the color red – and they can remember which ones they’ve been to recently so they don’t keep visiting the same flower, which would be a waste of energy. That’s amazing, considering a honeybee visits up to 2,000 flowers a day, heading back to the hive once in a while to bring back the nectar it has collected. Just so you know, a honeybee has to collect nectar from a total of 2 million flowers just so a pound of honey can be made.

Honeybees can even recognize and remember human faces, giving scientists several ideas about how to advance the technology of facial recognition.

Their memory is especially good in the morning which is when they are the busiest and incredibly, can be boosted by the caffeine they get from some flowers, just like human memory. Pesticides, however, can do bad things for their memory and can sometimes muddle their brains so much that they can’t even find their way back to the hive.

2. A giant weta can weigh more than a house sparrow.

World’s biggest insect, giant weta. Image credit: abodftyh, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Have you ever wondered what the heaviest insect in the world is? Wonder no more.

Wetas are cricket-like insects with spiny hind legs that can be found only in New Zealand. There are around 70 species of them and about a dozen are known as giant wetas because they can grow over 4 inches long and weigh about 35 grams.

A female specimen of the Little Barrier Island giant weta holds the record for the heaviest insect in the world, weighing as heavy as two house sparrows or two budgerigars or three house mice. It weighed 71 grams or 2.5 ounces.

Now, that’s one bug you won’t be able to squish easily.

3. A flea can cover a distance of 22 times its own body length in just one leap.

Cat Flea picture under 35x zoom optical microscope. Image credit: Erturac, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Wetas can jump but it is the tiny flea that has the most impressive jumping ability in the insect kingdom. It can cover a distance of 13 inches (33 cm) in a single leap, which is impressive considering it can be as small as 1.5 mm short. It can also jump up to 7 inches high, which is 100 times its height. If a human had as much ability, he would be able to jump 160 feet high and 295 feet long or cover the distance of nearly three basketball courts. Now, that would be an Olympic record!

No wonder flies can easily get from our dogs and cats to us or from one person to another. The question is: How do they do it? Researchers at the University of Cambridge have finally figured it out. They discovered that fleas jump from their feet, not from their knees, like we and other animals do. They store a special protein in their muscles, which when released, gives them a burst of energy.

4. Rhinoceros beetles can lift up to 850 times their own weight.

Rhinocerus beetle. Image credit: Steve Slater (used to be Wildlife Encounters), (CC BY 2.0)

Rhinoceros beetles are considered some of the strongest animals on the planet. That is because even though they weigh just 100 grams or so, they can carry an object that weighs as heavy as 8 kilograms – that could be the weight of two newborn babies! If a human had as much strength, he would be able to lift an off-road dump truck and if an elephant were as strong, it would be able to carry 850 elephants on its back. Imagine that!

Rhinoceros beetles are so strong they have also been called Hercules beetles. They have horns and very thick skin and the males also like to fight among themselves to get the attention of females. In fact, in some parts of Asia, they are made to fight for sport. They are also kept as pets.

5. The mandibles of a titan beetle can cut through a pencil.

Titan_beetle_(Titanus giganteus)
Titan beetle (Titanus giganteus). Image credit: berniedup, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Speaking of strong beetles, the titan beetle is another heavyweight. It might not be the longest or the heaviest beetle but its mandibles – those pincer-like mouthparts – have been proven to snap a pencil in half and can even cut through human flesh. Yikes!

Titan beetles also have sharp spines in their legs that can leave nasty cuts but they will only fight back when provoked. Left alone, the males will spend their time flying in search of a mate. They will not even eat, using the energy they stored from their pupa stage to find their mate, after which they die. The females, who never leave the forest, also die after laying eggs.

6. Bombardier beetles can burn your skin.

Bombardier Beetle (Carabidae: Brachinae: Brachinus sp.) Image credit: platycryptus, (CC BY 2.0)

Think a bite from a titan beetle is nasty? A burn from a bombardier beetle can feel even worse. That’s right. A burn.

When threatened, bombardier beetles spray a mixture of chemicals from their abdomens, which comes out with a popping sound. This toxic spray is hot enough – almost as hot as boiling water – to kill insects which try to harm it. And humans? They are left with painful burns and ugly stains. Some bombardier beetles can even rotate the openings of their stomachs up to 270 degrees to fire at attackers more effectively.

7. Some termites have guns.

Bombardier beetles are not the only insects that can spray harmful chemicals. Some termites, particularly the North American termite soldiers, can, too. They have what are called fontanellar guns, which are special muscles in their head that contract in order to cause a substance to shoot out of their frontal glands. This substance is very sticky that it causes the legs of other insects to become entangled or stick to the ground. Sometimes, just the force of it coming out is also enough to hurt potential invaders, keeping the nest safe.

8. Praying mantises are the only insects that can turn their heads.

Praying Mantis. Stared into the camera and cocked its head. Image credit: Joi, (CC BY 2.0)

Praying mantises are some of the fiercest predators in the insect world, so named because their front legs are typically folded as if in prayer. Of course, they can assume other poses as well to mimic flowers, leaves or even strike a warning martial arts pose. Of all the insects, they are the only ones who can turn their heads and up to 180 degrees at that, which helps them to locate their prey and avoid predators.

9. One species of dragonfly can travel 11,000 miles.

Pantala flavescens. Image credit: john_amend_all2000, (CC BY 2.0)

Dragonflies are known as excellent flyers. In the air, they can hover or burst forward at dizzying speeds. They can go straight up and down, make hairpin turns, fly sideways and even backwards. They also catch prey and mate in mid-air.

One species of dragonfly, the Pantala flavescens or global skimmer, has been recorded to have the longest migration of any insect. It can cross the Indian Ocean from Southern India to Africa and then go back again, covering a total distance of 11,000 miles.

10. Female aphids can reproduce even when there are no males around.

An aphid giving birth to live young. Image credit: MedievalRich, GNU FDL.

Aphids are quite incredible when it comes to reproduction. Depending on whether there is plenty of food or not, they can switch between reproduction modes. When food is scarce, the females develop eggs inside their bodies even without any males around and then they give birth to live young, which saves time. (It takes time, after all, for eggs to hatch.) The process can go and on and a single aphid can produce 41 generations or 600 billion descendants in 40 days.

When conditions are more favorable, female aphids mate with males and lay eggs. The eggs hatch into young that are either wingless or winged, depending on the supply of food available.


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