Many people are afraid of insects, probably because they’re creepy, disgusting, freaky, and scary. But despite their weird appearances, many insects possess incredible abilities that will put other animals, and even us humans, to shame. Despite their miniscule sizes and simple brains, these lowly creatures hold the key to solving some of mankind’s greatest problems. Just like…
1. Bombardier Beetle
When it comes to defensive strategies in the insect world, nothing beats the Bombardier beetle. This creature has the incredible ability to fire a hot mixture of chemical solution strong enough to injure its enemies. The toxic solution sprayed by the beetle can reach an impressive temperature of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, or 100 degrees Celsius.
But what’s even more fascinating is the intricate design of the Bombardier beetle’s body. You see, the two chemicals, hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone, which this insect uses to injure its enemies are dangerous and fatal. If not stored and combined properly, these chemicals would cause the Bombardier beetle to explode! Were it not for their well-designed bodies, Bombardier beetles would have never existed. At the end of this insect’s abdomen are two glands. These two glands separate the hydrogen peroxide from the hydroquinone. If the Bombardier beetle feels threatened, its sphincter muscles will squeeze the right amount of chemicals into a certain body part where they are mixed together with other toxic substances. The result is a hot mixture of toxic chemicals capable of hurting the Bombardier beetle’s enemies.
2. Voodoo Wasps
Voodoo wasps are called such because of their “magical” ability to turn their prey or enemies into “zombies”. This might sound like something you’d see in a sci-fi flick, but scientists have proven that voodoo wasps are indeed capable of inducing other insects into a zombie-like state. What’s more eerie is that, once the insects become zombies, voodoo wasps can control them.
Voodoo wasps lay their eggs inside the bodies of young geometrid caterpillars. The larvae inside the caterpillars survive by feeding on the bodily fluids of their host. Once the larvae achieve full development, they find their way out of the caterpillar’s body by eating its skin. Then, they create a cocoon and attach themselves into a leaf or a branch. Here comes the slightly terrifying, yet equally fascinating part. The host the caterpillar doesn’t leave the cocoon — instead of doing its usual business, the caterpillar acts as the cocoon’s bodyguard, protecting it from various predators.
Researchers conducted an experiment which showed that infected caterpillars do become the “zombie bodyguards” of voodoo wasps by introducing stinkbugs. Caterpillars which were not infected didn’t do anything to stop the stinkbug from going near the cocoon. On the other hand, infected caterpillars protected the cocoon by knocking the bug off the branch. Scientists don’t know why the infected caterpillars protect the cocoon. However, they did find out that this incredible ability of voodoo wasps is crucial for their survival.
Ants have the amazing ability of always finding their way back home even if they’ve wandered far away in search for food. Scientists have long known that ants employ various visual cues to remind them of where their colony is. However, in some places, like deserts, where there are no distinct landmarks, how do ants manage to find their way back home? This is the same question that Dr. Markus Knaden, Dr. Kathrin Steck, and Prof. Bill Hanson of the Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany tried to answer with a very simple experiment.
For their experiment, the scientists used Tunisian desert ants. They placed four different odors around the entrance of the ants’ nest, and made sure that the entrance was barely visible. After letting the ants associate the odors with their nest, they were then removed and then placed in a different location, one with no nest and no entrance. Only the four odors used previously in the first location were present.
Surprisingly, the ants went to the area where the odors were located (the same spot where the nest entrance should have been)! This experiment proved that ants can smell in stereo, which means that they can sense two different odors at the same time from two unique directions. Moreover, it also proved that in places, like deserts, ants don’t rely on visual cues. They create an “odor map” of their environment by relying on their “stereo sense of smell”. As long as the odor is there, they will always find their way back home.
We humans have the amazing ability of selective attention. Right now, you’re using this power to eliminate various distractions and focus on reading and understanding this list. For many years, scientists have believed that only primates possess this amazing ability. However, a new research shows that a specific winged creature in the insect world is also capable of selective attention.
Dragonflies have very small brains and yet, when hunting for food, they rely on selective attention. If a dragonfly sees a swarm of tiny insects, it’s going to lock its attention on one prey alone. Through selective attention, it eliminates other potential prey within the swarm and focuses solely on its target. Dragonflies are very accurate when it comes to catching their prey. Their success rate is very high – 97 percent!
5. Dung Beet
There are two reasons why dung beetles are included in this list: poop and astronomy. This might surprise you, but these two seemingly-unrelated subjects have been connected by these incredible creatures.
Dung beetles live a very disgusting lifestyle. They collect animal wastes, roll it up into a ball, and use it for several purposes. They can use the ball as their homes, lay their eggs on it, or if they’re hungry, snack on it. Now, what’s amazing is that dung beetles have the incredible ability to roll their “dung balls” in a straight line even at night! Intrigued by this fascinating ability, Marie Dacke, a biologist from Lund University in Sweden, conducted an experiment. She placed the dung beetles in a planetarium, and watched as the insects were able to successfully roll their dung ball in a straight line by using the “entire starry sky”.
To make the experiment more interesting, Dacke decided to show only the Milky Way Galaxy. Surprisingly, the dung beetles were still capable of rolling their precious dung balls in a straight line. The conclusion: dung beetles are great recyclers and incredible astronomers.
Fleas are harmful not only to your pets, but also to you and your family. Despite that, they have something in them that deserves human admiration: these insects are capable of jumping 150 times their own height! Now, this might not sound really amazing if you view it in insect terms, but if you look at it in a human perspective, then you’ll find that the fleas plaguing your pets are indeed incredible creatures.
Fireflies‘ amazing ability to produce their own light is a wonder in the animal kingdom, and a source of inspiration and joy for many of us. As a child, you’ve probably experienced that magical feeling that comes upon seeing the twilight flickering of these amazing creatures for the first time.
One thing that we, as humans, can learn from fireflies is how to use energy efficiently. Fireflies were designed by Nature to use energy without wasting much of it through heat. The light bulbs we have in our homes only use 10% of their total energy in producing light. The remaining 90% becomes wasted heat energy. On the other hand, the amazing bodies of fireflies were designed to use 100% of the energy to produce light. If fireflies were like light bulbs, in that they use only 10% to make light and the remaining 90% is released as heat energy, they would almost certainly burn to death.
Moreover, just like bees, fireflies can talk with each other too. Fireflies use their ability to produce light to signal each other that they are available for mating. Male fireflies give off distinct flash patterns (each species has their own unique patterns) that signal the female fireflies that they are “single”. On the other hand, if the female fireflies are interested in mating, they too would reply by flickering.
Locusts are one of the most efficient pilots in the insect world. These winged creatures, which many people consider to be menaces, can fly great distances without using too much energy. For many years now, scientists have been studying them, and they found out that even though these insects don’t produce great amounts of thrust and lift, they’re capable of sustaining a steady flight rate. Their ability to maintain a steady flight rate doesn’t change even if the winds and temperature become unfavorable. This amazing ability enables them to travel vast distances without wasting much energy.
What’s more amazing is that locusts have the capacity to twist their wings during flights. By doing so, they can preserve and even control the quantity of lift they generate. This, in turn, helps in keeping their flight at a consistent rate. This additional feature enables them to fly up to 80 kilometers in one day without requiring a rest.
Bees are one of the most intelligent insects in the animal world. Not only do they have their own sophisticated means of communication, they also have extraordinary navigation skills despite the fact that their eyesight is limited.
It’s common knowledge that honey bees can communicate with each other. They perform a series of movements called a “waggle dance” to tell each other where food is located or which spot is best for building a new colony. However, what many people don’t know is that the dance is extremely advanced. Honey bees know that the Earth is round, and they take this fact into consideration when they’re learning the location of a certain food source. Aside from that, they can also calculate angles very easily just by reading their waggle dances. For example, if a bee dances from a 12 to 6 o’clock direction, that means food or home is located directly away from the sun. In contrast, a 6 to 12 o’clock movement signifies that bees are to “fly straight forward towards the sun”. A 7 to 1 o’clock movement means that the bees are to fly “to the right of the sun”.
Aside from communicating with each other, honey bees also navigate their surroundings through other means like remembering visual landmarks, taking the sun’s position into consideration, and using the Earth’s electromagnetic field.
Cockroaches are perhaps the most disliked creatures in the whole world. Despite that, they’re also the most powerful. Just the mere presence of a single cockroach can make the strongest, most powerful men jump, run, and scream like a girl.
What most people don’t know is that cockroaches have significant value to the medical world. A number of researchers nowadays are studying cockroaches for their potential in curing some of man’s most dreaded diseases. Scientists have discovered that the brains of cockroaches contain “nine antibiotic molecules … that protect them from voracious, lethal bacteria”. So, what does this have to do with modern day medicine? Well, the antibacterial molecules found in the brains of cockroaches are more powerful than the antibiotics we use today. In fact, the antibacterial properties of these disgusting insects are far more effective than some of our modern medicine that they make “prescription drugs look like sugar pills”. Laboratory tests show that the antibacterial molecules found in cockroaches can easily cure MRSA—a bacterial infection more deadly than AIDS—and E. coli.
Aside from their amazing healing power, cockroaches also have the incredible ability to survive nuclear explosions. When Hiroshima and Nagasaki were annihilated by atomic bombs, the only sole survivors were cockroaches. However, it’s important to note that this amazing ability has its limitations. When exposed to 100,000 radon units, cockroaches will die.