The Strange Rulers of our Planet

The Strange Rulers of our Planet

flickr image by [Duncan]

When you think of life on earth, images of elephants, lions or bears might come to mind. Yet, there are more insects than any other species. In fact, of all the animal life on earth, insects represent 80%. In a very real sense, they are the masters of our planet. Of the known 900,000 insect species, scientists believe that there are millions more that have yet to be discovered. If you want to have a bug named after you, the field of entomology might be for you. With all that six-legged variety, you see an assortment of oddities that you might think comes out of a science fiction movie. Here a few of the strange insects that might make you rethink what you think you know about those bothersome bugs.

Longest Living Insect When you think of insect lifespans, you know that when winter hits you no longer see bugs. Most insects only live through a season. A few can overwinter and last a year or two. Termites have been around for millions of years. Their ancestors were around when dinosaurs walked the earth. Still though each generation doesn’t last long, the queen of the termites can live up to 50 years. Each day of that life is spent laying 6,000 eggs.

Loudest Insect The water boatman is a freshwater insect that is only 2 millimeters in length, yet can produce a sound that is a whopping 99 decibels. For you, that would be like standing in front of a jackhammer. Though this little critter pumps out the volume, the cicada has it beat. The repeating chirp of a Cicada can reach a decibel level of 106, while others can get into the 120 range.

Most Terrifying Insect This one might be arguable, especially because people will immediately think of poisonous spiders (which are not really an insect, since they are in the arachnid family). Other candidates could include stinging wasps or swarming ants. If you think about the insect that has caused the most human deaths it would be the mosquito. Yep, that little fragile flyer transmits some nasty diseases. Take out the diseases and a mosquito is far from terrifying. If you are a farmer producing food to feed your nation, the most feared sight is a swarm of migratory locusts. They descend in a cloud of chitin and buzzing wings. Their numbers are so large that they can darken the sunlight. With millions and millions of little mouths, they can decimate acres and acres of crops in just a few hours. They have caused billions upon billions of dollars in damage.

Smallest Insect When you think small, ants or fleas might come to mind. The fairyfly is a tiny wasp measures in at 0.14 millimeters. That is the size of some single celled eukaryote bacteria. This little critter loves eating the eggs of other insects. When you think of life on earth, you might think humans are the dominate species. Unlike humans, insects live permanently on every continent. When it comes to numbers and type, they are the rulers of our planet.