Bug Question Lightning Round (Part 1)

July 28, 2022

In an attempt to add something fresh and zesty to this blog, I'll be answering a subset of the questions from this list in batches! It's hard for me to come up with excuses for blog posts that aren't essays requiring extensive research, so I think this is a good a way as any for me to write without taking myself too seriously.

1. What's your favorite bug? (if you really can't choose, give us a top 5!)

As you may know, I'm bad with superlatives, so here are 5 bugs that I really love in no particular order:

  1. Hercules beetle (Dynastes hercules) - I'm a big fan of all rhinoceros beetles because I love the horns, but the silhouette of the Hercules beetle is unmatched and I think their coloring is lovely. They're also huge!
  2. Whip spider (Amblypygi) - The whip spiders require no introduction since I've waxed poetic about them already. Still, my love for them can't be understated.
  3. Pillbug (Armadillidiidae) - Of all the woodlice, in all the towns, in all the world, I still have a soft spot for the pillbug. I too wish I could curl up into an armored ball in stressful situations.
  4. Hummingbird clearwing moth (Hemaris sp.) - So plump! So fuzzy! So confusing in morphology!
  5. Bumblebee (Bombus sp.) - There's something about especially large bumblebees that fills me with immeasurable joy when I see them. It blows my mind that honeybees are the Charismatic North American Bee Posterchild when bumblebees are right here (though bumblebees aren't quite as financially lucrative as honeybees...)

2. Fill out this “What Insect Order Are You” quiz, and tell us what you got!

I got Coleoptera, the beetles:

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, of the distinguished British biologist, J.B.S. Haldane, who found himself in the company of a group of theologians. On being asked what one could conclude as to the nature of the Creator from a study of his creation, Haldane is said to have answered, 'An inordinate fondness for beetles.'

3. What is your favorite order in Insecta?

Hymenoptera (the bees, wasps, ants, and sawflies), Coleoptera (the beetles), and Mantodea (the mantids), but it's tight.

I'm very fond of Hymenoptera because social Hymenopteran behavior is so incredible and complex in ways we'll never fully comprehend. That being said, solitary Hymenopterans have cool quirks of their own - take cuckoo wasps, which lay their eggs in the nests of other wasps.

Coleoptera is an astoundingly large group of animals: it's estimated that 25% of known animals (and 40% of known insects) are beetles. They've managed to conquer nearly every corner of the planet, and I respect them for that. Despite the sheer number of beetles we know about, I'm certain there are still countless others that have managed to avoid human detection.

What isn't to love about Mantodea? They look like tiny little alien freaks. The degree of plant mimicry that many species have evolved is absurd (and really adds to the alien freak look). They can also tune out everything except for moving objects in their field of vision without getting bogged down in details as humans do; this makes them extremely efficient hunting machines.

4. Do you have a favorite member within Chelicerata?

We all know it's the whip spiders. I don't think I need to explain myself more than I already have. I'm a big fan of chelicerates in general, though!

5. What species within Myriapoda is your favorite?

The isopod fan in me has a soft spot for pill millipedes (Oniscomorpha). Despite resembling giant pillbugs, they're only distantly related and evolved a similar set of traits separately. What's more, there are two orders of pill millipedes, Glomerida and Sphaerotheriida, and the ability to roll evolved independently in each of them. Convergent evolution is a wonderful thing.

They even come in green!