Often small, fast and camouflaged, insects make up nearly three quarters of animal life of Earth, yet they are easily missed due to their size and speed. This fall, however, Arboretum visitors will be able to see these creepy, crawly creatures up close and personal as part of its newest exhibit, The World of Giant Insects, on display through January 8, 2017 inside the Baker Exhibit Center.
Although small in size, an insect’s habitat and lifecycle can often cast a big impression. So where, exactly, do insects live? What, specifically, do they eat? And, how do they reproduce? Below is a quick Arboretum Entomology 101 lesson on some of some of our favorite critters:
The praying mantis received its name due to the prayer-like resting position of its forelegs. While its prey, including insects, frogs, lizards and even young birds, may fear this insect, they are well liked by gardeners and farmers thanks to their mammoth appetite for plant-destroying pests. They are often found in warmer regions, especially in the tropics.
Did you know? After mating, the female praying mantis may sometime eat the male, which is one of the reasons why these iconic insects are not very common (in addition to their eggs being a food source for wasps).
If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it must be a duck, right? Wrong. While the stick insect may be a mirror image of the twig on which it lives, it is far more interesting than its wooden doppelganger. The stick insect is a master of disguise and has one of the most efficient natural camouflages on Earth. Approximately 1,300 eggs are laid in leaf litter, soil or on a stem at a time, and its eggs are often mistaken as seeds. They then take one to three years to hatch. Talk about a long wait!
Did you know? Stick insects can produce sounds by scraping their antennae together.
Found in southeastern Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines, the atlas beetle is one of the world’s largest beetles and is considered to be one of the strongest animals on earth proportionally (they have been recorded lifting up to 850 times their own weight!). Mostly nocturnal, adult atlas beets are active in the evening and their noisy flight can be heard from far away.
Did you know? Male atlas beetles use their horns in male-to-male combat as a way to establish and maintain territory. These battles often take place high in the trees where the loser will be tossed off the side, falling to the ground. This makes for a long climb back to the top for the defeated male, where typically another battle awaits for him.
Interested in learning more about these brilliant bugs? The Arboretum’s The World of Giant Insects exhibit features six giant-sized robotic insects, including the critters mentioned above, along with interactive displays, larger-than-life magnifying glasses and a “Bug Bytes” quiz box. For more information, please click here.