Aphids Are Born Pregnant, and 17 Other Bonkers Facts About Insects

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Grossed out by creepy crawlies? Annoyed by uninvited guests at your picnic? You’re not alone. However, before you swat away the next bug that buzzes by, consider this: Insects are among the most fascinating creatures on our planet.

Did you know that bees can recognize human faces? Or that ants farm their own food? And let’s not even get started on ladybugs.

Here are 18 facts about insects that might just change your opinions about these tiny, remarkable creatures.

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1. Aphids Are Born Pregnant

Forget the old cliché about breeding like rabbits — when it comes to reproducing, those carrot-munchers have nothing on aphids. Aphids — herbivorous pests well known to those with a green thumb for the nuisance they cause in gardens — reproduce at an alarming rate. In fact, female aphids give birth to live nymphs without mating, a phenomenon known as parthenogenesis. These nymphs are often already carrying their own offspring internally.

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2. Ladybugs Bleed From Their Knees When Threatened

When ladybugs feel threatened, they have a slightly gross defense mechanism that involves bleeding from their knees. This isn’t regular blood, though; it’s a substance called hemolymph, which contains chemicals with an off-putting smell, making the ladybug a less appealing snack to predators. This bleeding, officially known as “reflex bleeding,” serves as a warning signal to would-be attackers that the ladybug isn’t worth the trouble.

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3. Bees Can Recognize Human Faces

Next time you’re annoyed by a buzzing bee and try to shoo it away, think twice: They can remember your face and might gang up on you later. Studies show that honeybees, despite possessing only 0.01% of the neurons that humans have, can identify and differentiate faces using a process akin to human face recognition. Bees accomplish this by piecing together visual components of a face — like eyes, nose, and mouth — and use this composite to distinguish individuals, much like they do with flowers.

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4. Praying Mantises Have 3D Vision

Praying Mantises are among the few insects with stereo vision, allowing them to gauge the distance to their prey precisely. Research has shown that praying mantises use their 3D perception primarily for hunting. They can accurately judge the distance to moving prey, allowing them to precisely strike with their forelegs. A study published in the journal Current Biology revealed that when researchers fitted tiny, 3D glasses on praying mantises and showed them movies of prey, the insects would still strike at the images, indicating their ability to perceive depth in the digital images presented to them.

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5. Some Ants Farm Other Insects

It turns out that some ants also have green thumbs, engaging in a form of agriculture by farming other insects, most notably aphids. This symbiotic relationship is a fascinating example of mutualism in nature. Ants protect the aphids from predators, care for them, sometimes move them to better feeding sites, and even take them into their nests for protection during colder months. In return, the aphids produce a sweet substance called honeydew, which the ants consume. Awww!

Image Credit: Greg Hume at en.wikipedia .

6. Dragonflies Have Been Around Before Dinosaurs

Fossil records show that dragonflies existed over 300 million years ago, making them some of the first winged insects. The earliest dragonflies appeared during the Carboniferous period, which is well before the Mesozoic era when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The ancient ancestors of modern dragonflies were much larger than the ones we see today, with wingspans reaching up to two feet or more. These ancient insects, known as griffin flies or Meganisoptera, thrived in the lush, wet environments of the late Paleozoic era. Over millions of years, dragonflies have evolved and adapted to various environments, but they have maintained many of the same physical characteristics — including their elongated bodies and two pairs of strong, transparent wings.

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7. A Single Termite Queen Can Lay Up to 10,000 Eggs Per Day

Termite queens have an astonishing reproductive capacity, although the number of eggs they can lay daily varies widely among different species. While some sources might claim a termite queen can lay up to 30,000 eggs per day, more commonly cited figures are somewhat lower, typically ranging from a few thousand to around 10,000 eggs in a day for the most prolific species. The queen’s primary role within the colony is reproduction. Her lifespan, which can extend for decades in some species, is spent producing eggs to ensure the growth and survival of the colony.

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8. Fireflies Use Morse Code To Find Mates

Fireflies, also known as lightning bugs, communicate through a fascinating method of flashing light patterns, reminiscent of Morse code, to attract mates and interact with each other. Each species of firefly has a distinct flashing pattern that enables males and females to recognize their counterparts amidst a myriad of signals in their environment. This bioluminescent communication is essential for their mating rituals, involving a mix of light duration, frequency, and intensity that differs significantly among the more than 2,000 firefly species worldwide. So when two female fireflies talk about their love life, one can only imagine it goes something along the lines of “He hasn’t flashed me yet…”

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9. The Dung Beetle Navigates Using the Milky Way

Talk about star power — a study shows that dung beetles navigate using the Milky Way, making them the first known non-human species to do so. This discovery marked the first time scientists found evidence of an insect using the Milky Way for orientation. The dung beetle, specifically the Scarabaeus satyrus species, uses the Milky Way light to navigate in a straight line while rolling balls of dung away from dung piles. This behavior is crucial for their survival, as it allows them to escape competition from other dung beetles and predators. 

The dung beetles’ ability to use celestial cues for navigation was discovered through experiments where beetles were observed under different sky conditions. Researchers found that on clear nights, the beetles could roll their dung balls in straight lines away from the dung pile. However, when the sky was overcast or when the beetles were in conditions that blocked their view of the sky, their path became erratic, and they struggled to move in a straight line. 

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10. The Bombardier Beetle Can Shoot Boiling Chemicals From Its Caboose

Ladybugs aren’t the only insects with a “messy” defense mechanism. Startle a Bombardier Beetle, and it will shoot a burning-hot, stinky liquid from its rear. This remarkable ability is a result of a chemical reaction that occurs within the beetle’s body. The beetle stores two separate chemicals, hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide, in two reservoirs within its abdomen. When threatened, these chemicals are mixed in a reaction chamber with special catalytic enzymes, causing the mixture to heat up and rapidly vaporize, expanding violently. The resulting hot, noxious spray is expelled through a special nozzle at the beetle’s behind.

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11. Cockroaches Can Live for a Week Without Their Head

It only makes sense that cockroaches can live headless for a week, as they are notoriously resilient and often cited as the most likely survivors of a nuclear war. Their unique anatomy explains why. Unlike humans, cockroaches don’t breathe through their mouths or heads but through tiny holes in their body segments, known as spiracles. This allows them to continue breathing even after decapitation. Moreover, their open circulatory system prevents them from bleeding out like vertebrates do when they lose a body part. Their necks can clot and seal off, stopping any potential blood loss, which helps them live headless for days. 

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12. Fruit Flies Were the First Living Creatures To Be Sent Into Space

“Ground Control to Major Fruit Fly.” 

On February 20, 1947, the United States made a small leap for fruit flies but a giant leap for science by launching a V-2 rocket from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, carrying these tiny astronauts into space. The mission aimed to explore the effects of radiation exposure at high altitudes, with fruit flies (specifically Drosophila melanogaster) as the chosen passengers for their well-understood biology, short life cycles, and ease of maintenance. 

Encased in a specially designed capsule, the fruit flies were exposed to cosmic rays during their brief foray into the unknown. After reaching an altitude of 68 miles and completing their mission, the rocket returned to Earth, where the capsule and its intrepid crew were recovered. Remarkably, the fruit flies survived their space adventure unscathed, showing no adverse effects from the cosmic rays or their space travel, and providing valuable data for future biological studies in space.

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13. The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth Has a Skull Pattern on Its Back (and Can Squeak!)

Named for the skull-and-crossbones pattern on their heads, which earned them a chilling cameo in “The Silence of the Lambs,” the death’s head hawk moth carries a rather eerie reputation. However, their most spine-tingling trait isn’t their appearance but a peculiar squeak they produce. This sound is produced by forcibly expelling air from their pharynx, a talent unique to this species among moths. The squeak might serve a dual purpose: It could either startle potential predators or mimic the noise of a queen bee. This acoustic disguise allows the moths to sneak into beehives, where they pilfer honey without being detected.

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14. Fleas Can Jump 150 Times Their Own Height

Fleas are remarkable jumpers, known for their ability to leap distances and heights many times their own body length and height. They can jump approximately 150 times their own height and 200 times their own body length. In human terms, this is equivalent to a person jumping 984 feet across and 820 feet high.

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15. The Largest Ant Colony Ever Found Stretched Over 3,700 Miles

The largest contiguous colony of ants ever recorded spans an impressive 3,700 miles, extending from northern Italy, traversing the south of France, and continuing to the Atlantic coast of Spain. This expansive colony, known as a “supercolony,” is composed of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), a species introduced to Europe around 80 years ago. Despite originating from distant parts of the colony, these ants demonstrate the ability to recognize one another.

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16. Male Mosquitoes Feed on Nectar, Not Blood — So They Don’t Bite

If you are one of those unfortunate souls who is always the main course for mosquitoes, then you probably loathe these pesky creatures (as you should!). But don’t hate all of them — it’s only the females biting you, as they require the protein found in blood to help their eggs develop. Male mosquitoes are “vegetarians,” primarily feeding on nectar from flowers. They do not bite humans or animals because they do not require blood for their reproductive cycle. They use their specialized mouthparts to extract nectar, providing them the energy they need to sustain themselves. 

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17. Crickets and Grasshoppers Hear through Their Knees

Crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts all “hear” through their knees, more specifically through organs located on their front legs. The knee-ears of crickets are called tympanal organs, located on each front leg’s tibia. These tympanal organs consist of a thin membrane (tympanum) that vibrates in response to sound waves. Behind this membrane are sensory cells that convert these vibrations into nerve impulses, which are then sent to the cricket’s brain for processing, allowing crickets to detect the chirps of other crickets. Male crickets produce sounds by rubbing their wings together to attract females or ward off other males.

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18. Butterflies Can See Ultraviolet Light

Butterflies are a rare treat for the eyes in the insect world and possess an extraordinary superpower: the ability to see ultraviolet light. Human vision is limited to the visible spectrum of light, but butterflies have eyes that are sensitive to a wider range of wavelengths, including ultraviolet light. This ability plays a crucial role in their survival and reproductive behaviors. UV-sensitive photoreceptors in their eyes allow butterflies to detect patterns on flowers and other butterflies that are invisible to humans. Many flowers have evolved UV-reflective patterns to attract pollinators like butterflies, guiding them to the nectar and ensuring pollination. Similarly, the wings of many butterfly species reflect UV light and exhibit patterns that are used for attracting mates, camouflaging, or warning predators.

This article was produced and syndicated by MediaFeed.

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