Pest Advice Blog

What the . . . ? Exploring the Unknown Facts and Oddities of Insects

facts and oddities of insects
Insects make up the largest segment of life forms on the planet, outnumbering the sum of all of the other members of the animal kingdom. That’s a lot of bugs. With over 1,000 known insect species in the world, it shouldn’t surprise most that insects fit into their own biological niches with some strange and interesting features, habits and activities.

Did you know that silkworm moths have eleven brains or that caterpillars have 248 muscles in their heads or that a snail can sleep for three years? Some insects, like ants are named for their unusual behaviors and others for the unpleasant pain they can inflict upon humans.

Crazy Ants

In the southern US, crazy ants, an invasive Argentinian import not only moves in erratic, jerky movements leaving behind a wacky trail, they are covered with reddish brown hairs and are attracted to electrical wiring and components. Their carcasses can clog electrical switches wreaking havoc on electrical components.

When one crazy ant wanders into a transformer and is electrocuted, it waves its abdomen, releasing pheromones that attract more crazy ants which come into contact with the first ant or a hot spot and are also electrocuted. The accumulation of crazy ant carcasses creates a pile up causing electrical malfunctions. Additionally, rumor has it that due to the crazy ant’s ability to adapt to diverse environments, crazy ants may be on track to eliminate fire ants in the south.

Bullet Ants

Anyone who’s been stung by fire ants is well aware of the reason they’re called “fire” ants, because of the burning, stinging pain they inflict on unsuspecting humans. But the bullet ant will make a fire ant sting feel like a walk in the park. Rating the highest on the Schmidt pain index, some say the bullet ants’ sting feels like being shot with a gun. Not only that, this 1.5″ long menace looks like a chunky, wingless wasp whose venom causes intense throbbing, burning and relentless pain for a whole 24 hours, with uncontrollable shaking for days on end afterwards.

And as if it’s not bad enough that bullet ants inflict unfathomable pain and suffering on their victims, some Brazilian tribes use bullet ants as part of their warrior rites of initiation, sewing bullet ants into gloves that are then placed on the hands of eligible young tribe members. In order to complete the initiation, candidates must wear the gloves for a full ten minutes, twenty times in the span of a couple of years. Situated right next to the bullet ant on the Schmidt pain index is the tarantula hawk wasp.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp

While the thought of tarantulas makes most humans panic, evidently the sting of their predator, the enormous tarantula hawk wasp can be so powerful that it has been described as intensely electric. So much so in fact that in a peer-reviewed journal, invertebrate specialists suggest that the only thing a human should do after being stung by a tarantula hawk wasp, is “just lie down and start screaming.”

Scientists say even though the pain lasts only three minutes, most victims are unable to function mentally or physically after the stinging event, so in order to not injure themselves, they should just stay put and deal with the pain by screaming. While certain wasps and ants can cause humans to suffer, that’s nothing compared to some of the bizarre and sinister habits of more than a few wasp species, who control other pests and nurture their young in a most diabolical way.

Jewel Wasps: So resourceful, genius even

Jewel wasps, also called emerald cockroach wasps, because they prey on cockroaches for food, but not for themselves. Jewel wasps prey on roaches to feed to their young in a very interesting yet cruel manner. Initially, the jewel wasp partially paralyzes her victim. Next, she injects venom directly into the roach’s brain to block neurotransmitters that render the roach alive, but under her spell, with no will of its own.

Dragging her zombie-like victim into her underground lair, the jewel wasp lays an egg in the roach’s abdomen. When the egg hatches, the larval wasps eat the live cockroach’s insides. In eight days, the roach finally dies and the young wasps emerge. Insects reproduce in many strange ways. Some exhibit even stranger mating habits.

Femme Fatale Fireflies

Fireflies and lightning bugs, always a signal of summer’s arrival delight children and adults alike with their spectacular luminous displays. While every firefly species has a unique flicker code that attracts mates of the same species, scientists note an interesting trait among female fireflies. It seems that some lady fireflies, looking for food after mating, mimic the flicker code of other fireflies. When a like male firefly responds to her, she attacks and devours him. Some entomologists believe the sperm of the male firefly drives the urge in female fireflies to eat the males of another species. Fireflies are fun but the thought of giant insects make for some interesting and sometimes scary observations.

Giant Insects

Super-sized anything always grab our attentions. While some of the largest insects in the world make most people squirm, some are incredibly beautiful. Atlas moths, the largest moths in the world, commonly frequent the Malay Archipelago in Indonesia. Bird-sized insects, with a wingspan of at least one foot in length, Atlas moths’ wings can measure more than 60 square inches in total wing area.

The titan beetle, however, native to the Amazon rain forest can grow up to 6.5 inches in length and can easily snap a pencil in two with its giant mandibles and can reportedly rip through human flesh as well. The giant weta, a cousin of the cricket, is native to New Zealand and weighs in at about 2.5 ounces making it one of the heaviest insects in the world. Fortunately, giant wetas can’t fly like Africa’s 4-inch, 3.5 ounce Goliath beetle, an insect in contention for the world’s largest bug title.

Truly Nolen knows how interesting insects can be. Thinking like a bug helps Truly Nolen control and eliminate pests when they threaten your home, family, property or peace of mind. Contact Truly Nolen with your pest control questions or to set up a free inspection.

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