The Longest Insect.
The Borneo walking stick (Phobaeticus kirbyi) can grow to up to 32 centimeters long, with another 14 centimeters if you measure the legs stretched out! But you might not see one, even if you are in Borneo and looking for them, since they closely resemble the slender tree branches they live on.
(image source: KVUE)
Goliath beetles (Goliathus) are the largest insects in terms of bulk and weight. They can reach over 4 inches long, which doesn’t sound like much, til you look at the picture. The beetles are native to the African tropics, where they subsist on tree sap and fruit. Goliath beetles can be kept as pets, just feed them dog food (but don’t expect them to come when called).
Strongest animal on earth.
The Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules) is a species of rhinoceros beetle that lives in South America. It can grow to over 6 inches in length (counting its horns), but its claim to fame is its strength. The Hercules beetle can support 850 times its own weight on its shell! This beetles eats only vegetation and is not aggressive, except to other Hercules beetles, when males fight each other over females.
(Image credit: Hans Pohl)
The twisted-wing parasite (Strepsiptera) is an order of insects who display a gruesome lifestyle. The larval stage parasite will climb a flower and wait for an insect pollinator (bee or wasp) to come along. They climb aboard the bee, burrow into its body, and change into a second-stage larva. They feed off the blood and organs of the host. An adult male parasite will emerge from the host and search for a mate -a process that takes such little time that he never develops a mouth. The adult female remains in the host’s body for the rest of her life, never growing legs or wings. She mates by pushing only her reproductive organs outside of the bee’s body! Her offspring will emerge and look for new hosts.
The gruesome behavior or the male African bat bug (Afrocimex constrictus) is directed at other bat bugs. Instead of copulating via the female’s sex organs, he will stab her abdomen to release sperm directly into her bloodstream. So the females have evolved paragenitals, a “spongy reservoir of immune cells” as a defense against these tactics. But since male bat bugs are not particular when it comes to mating, some male bat bugs have also developed paragenitals to defend themselves against sexual attack!
Bizarre Body Parts.
Seed Beetles have rough sex, too, but in the conventional manner. What is very unconventional is the male seed beetle’s penis (shown in above picture). He can do some damage with that thing. So female seed beetles have developed thicker, more padded reproductive canals over time as self-defense against their paramour.
Trap and Torture.
Tree ants (Allomerus decemarticulatus) in the Amazon contruct elaborate traps for other insects they feed upon. They build these traps from tree fibers reinforced with fungus. When an unsuspecting insect encounters the trap, the ants emerge from hiding underneath and pull the prey’s legs to immobilize them, almost like a torture rack. Then they dismember the victim and carry the parts off to the colony. This method of “drawing and quartering” allows the ants to dine on insects much larger than themselves.
(image credit: Mehmet Karatay)
Driver ants (Dorylus) or siafu are the masters of the swarm. Dorylus includes several species of army ants, primarily found in Africa. Colonies can contain 20 million ants! When the column is on the march looking for food, people can avoid them just by stepping aside. But there have been cases where invalids have been killed (by asphyxiation) when a column of ants marches through the house. They have been known to kill and eat animals up to the size of small zebras. The soldiers of the colony flank the column. Their bite is so strong and persistant that they are sometimes used to suture wounds; just apply an ant while you hold the wound together and let it bite, then rip the body off. It should hold for a few days. Male driver ants are so much larger than the rest of the colony that they appear to be a different species. Males lead a solitary life until sexual maturity, when they approach the colony for mating. When a male is detected, the workers of the colony tear off his wings and take him to be mated with their queen. You can watch this process on video.
Assassin bugs use a mouth tube to inject toxin into their prey. This toxin acts as an anaesthetic and also liquifies tissues, the easier to suck you dry with. There are thousands of assassin bug species; some eat only other insects and some attack reptiles, birds, and mammals. This assassin bug is turning the tables on a vampire bat. Notice how you can see the blood entering the young insect.
Deadliest of all.
The mosquito (Culicidae) causes the deaths of millions of people every year. They spread yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and malaria from person to person, without being affected by the diseases themselves. They also transmit the debilitating filariasis worm, which can lead to elephantiasis in humans. Mosquitos are nasty business.
The Prettiest (discounting butterflies).
The Orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus) is a variety of flower mantis usually found in Malaysia and Indonesia. Doesn’t the mantis pictured look just like an orchid? They hide in the flowers they resemble, waiting for other delicious insects to alight. See a beautiful picture of a pink flower mantis here.
The strangest of all.
The weirdest insect of all is the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera). That may surprise you, but the only reason they don’t seem strange is because we are familiar with them. But think... how many insects produce a delicious food product enjoyed by bees, bears, and people? In addition to honey, bees produce beeswax, honeycombs, royal jelly, and venom. Bees communicate with each other, coordinate colony activities, determine the fate of the next generation, and are master architects, chemists, and engineers. Bees are crucial to food production as they pollinate billions of dollars worth of crops each year. Just don’t step on one barefoot!