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Insects

Insects are part of a bigger animal group called arthropods. The word Arthropod literally means jointed limbs. The arthropods are the first animal group to have jointed legs. Insects have certain characteristics. They have six legs. They have three body parts, a head, a thorax and an abdomen. They have wings. They are by far the largest animal group. They also have an outer or exoskeleton made of a substance called chitin. There are over 950,000 species of insects. While they are relatively small in size compared to many animal groups, they are well adapted to their environments. Most live on land and all grow from eggs. They go through various stages until they reach adulthood. This transformation through these stages is called metamorphosis. Insects undergo either complete or incomplete metamorphosis. The dragonfly, termite, grasshopper and true bug undergo incomplete metamorphosis. In this process there are three stages called egg, nymph and adult. When the nymph hatches from the egg, it looks like the adult insect except it is smaller, has no wings and cannot reproduce yet. As the nymph grows it outgrows its outside skeleton and it is shed. It then regrows a new one. This happens several times before it finally becomes an adult. Insects like the butterfly, bee, ant, beetle and fly undergo complete metamorphosis. This involves four stages: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. The larvae looks like a worm and hatches from the egg. As it grows, it also sheds it skin. It then grows into a pupa. While the pupa doesn’t move around like the larva, it does eventually at this stage change from an immature form to adult form. There is another group within the arthropods called the arachnids. The arachnids are spiders, scorpions, etc. The annelids are similar to insects. However, they have eight legs. Their wings are quite different from those of the insects.

Green Tiger Beetle

Green-Tiger-Beetle

The Green Tiger Beetle is a ground beetle, easily recognized by it’s iridescent green colour and the yellowish spots on it’s back. The adult Green Tiger Beetle can be seen from April to September and are between 10.5-14.5mm in length (they have a life span of 6 weeks). They have long legs that make them agile when hunting for prey and large eyes making them the perfect predator. If disturbed, they will fly short distances making a buzzing sound in flight. Green Tiger Beetles have extremely large jaws (mandibles) that have several teeth that resemble two curved swords with pointed blades. They are among the fastest insects on Earth, they can run at a speed of 5.6 mph, which relative to its body length, is about 22 times the speed of an Olympic sprinter & the equivalent of a human running at 480 miles per hour. In fact, Tiger Beetles run so fast that they actually lose the ability to see once they start moving. They have to visually lock on to their prey first, or run in short bursts to re-orient themselves as they chase their food. Either way they are so fast, their prey stands little chance of getting out of the way in time. Adults feed on any small invertebrates that they can catch including spiders, caterpillars, ants & other beetles. “If a military designer needed a model for a perfect combination of jeep and aircraft, able to switch from one to the other instantly, he need look no further than these feisty little creatures”…

Ground Beetles

Ground Beetles

 

 

 

 

 

Ground beetles are members of the Carabidae family, which contains around 350 species in Britain & Ireland. Most of these beetles are voracious predators. As the name suggests, many ground beetles spend their time on the ground and few can fly. The fusion of their wing cases acts as protecting armour. Both larvae and adults are carnivorous and often specialize in eating slugs and snails, as well as eating a range of carrion. Depending on the beetle species, they will also attack aphids and other pest insects. By encouraging them into your garden you can start on the road to a natural method of pest control. Many of these beetles are nocturnal and need some form of shade during the day. Provide them with shelter such as a log pile, leaf litter or just some large stones. They can be found throughout the year, although they hibernate during the coldest winter months. When threatened, ground beetles can discharge a noxious, highly irritant fluid (harmless to humans) from the tip of their abdomen. Females also use this as their own can of ‘pepper spray’ to deter over-amorous males. Many ground beetles eat by vomiting on their prey and waiting for their digestive enzymes to make their food more fluid and easier to eat.

Forest Bugs

Forest Bug

 

 

 

 

 

Forest Bugs (15mm in length), also known as Red-legged Shield Bugs, can be distinguished from other Shield Bugs by their square shoulders because they look like they’re wearing American football player padding. Their bodies are a dark bronze-brown colour with orange legs and antennae. The antennae are about the same length as the body. They feed on the sap of deciduous trees, particularly oaks growing along sheltered woodland edges or in clearings. This species overwinters as a nymph, the adults are present from July to November and the eggs are laid in August. Forest Bugs have a one year life cycle.

Green Shield Bug

Green Shield Bug

 

 

 

 

 

This Green Shield Bug or Stink Bug has a flattened, shield-shaped body and as the 2nd name suggests, it emits an unpleasant odor to repel many of it’s predators. It is bright green in colour with delicate flecks of black that look like small puncture marks. In November, the insects darken in colour and spend the winter hibernating with a dark-bronze colouration. Although the sexes are similar in appearance, females tend to be larger than males. Like all bugs, the Green Shield Bug has specialized sucking mouthparts, which in this species are used to feed on plant sap. This species belongs to a sub-order known as the ‘true bugs’ in which only the tips of the wings are membranous; the rest of the wing is hardened. When the bug is at rest, the wings are held flat over the body and the membranous parts of the wings overlap.

Great Diving Beetle

Great-Diving-Beetle

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Diving Beetle, is a large aquatic diving beetle native to Europe and northern Asia, and is particularly common in the UK & Ireland. The Great Diving Beetle, true to its name, is a rather sizable insect. The larvae can grow up to 60 millimeters (2.4 in) in length, while the adults are generally between 27–35 millimeters (1.1–1.4 in). These beetles live in fresh water, either still or slow running, and seem to prefer water with vegetation. They are dark-coloured (brown to black) on their back and wing cases (elytra) and yellow on their abdomen and legs. The male’s wing cases are shiny, while those of the female are finely grooved. A voracious predator, this beetle hunts a wide variety of prey including small fish & tadpoles. They are able fliers, and fly usually at night. They use the reflection of moonlight to locate new water sources. This location method can sometimes cause them to land on wet roads or other hard wet surfaces. Before they dive, they collect air bubbles in their wing cases. The jaws of a great diving beetle are strong compared to their body size & if you see one, don’t pick it up because it will bite you

Cockchafer Beetle

Cockchafer-Beetle-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

This handsome chap is the common Cockchafer Beetle, also referred to as the May bug, the Spang beetle or the Billy Witch, is a large beetle (15 – 20mm) that is usually seen in late Spring and early Summer. They are attracted to artificial light and often come indoors through open windows or even down chimneys. It has a life span of only 5 – 7 weeks, however the larvae lives under the ground for 3 – 4 years. Because of their long development time as larvae, Cockchafers only appear in a cycle of every 3 or 4 years. Males can easily be distinguished from the females by counting the number of ‘leaves’ on their remarkable antler or fan-like antennae, male’s sport seven ‘leaves’ while females have only six. These leafy antennae can detect pheromones, enabling males to find females even in the dark. Cockchafers were once highly abundant until pesticide use in the mid 20th Century almost obliterated them. Thankfully they have been making a comeback since the 1980’s with the regulation of pesticides. In the pre-industrialized era, the main mechanism to control their numbers was to collect and kill the adult beetles, thereby interrupting their life cycle. In ancient Greece, young boys used to catch the unwitting cockchafer, and tether it by tying a thread around its feet, amusing themselves by watching the poor chap fly aimlessly around in spirals. NOTE: Please click here for an oil painting of the Cockchafer Beetle that was created using Photoshop CS6.

Red Palm Weevil

Red-Palm-Weevil-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Red Palm Weevil is a species of snout beetle also known as the Asian Palm Weevil. The adult beetles are relatively large, ranging between two and five centimeters long, and are usually a rusty red colour. Weevil larvae can excavate holes in the trunk of a palm tree up to a meter long, thereby weakening and eventually killing the host plant. As a result, the weevil is considered a major pest in palm plantations. Originally from tropical Asia, the Red Palm Weevil has spread to Africa and Europe, reaching the Mediterranean in the 1980s. It was first recorded in Spain in 1994, and in France in 2006. Additional infestations have been located in Malta and Italy, and there are suspect reports suggesting that it has established along the Mediterranean coast of Portugal as well. Researchers also suspect that it has established in Morocco, Algeria and other North African countries. The Red Palm Weevil usually infests palms younger than twenty years. While the adult causes some damage through feeding, it is the burrowing of the larva into the heart of the palm that can cause the greatest mortality of trees. The adult female lays approximately two hundred eggs on new growth in the crown of the palm, at the base of young leaves, or in open lesions on the plant. The larva will feed on the soft fibers and terminal buds, tunneling through the internal tissue of the tree for about a month. The larvae leave the tree and form a cocoon built of dry palm fibers in leaf litter at the base of the tree. The total life cycle takes about 7–10 weeks. Currently, the pest is reported in almost 15% of the global coconut-growing countries and in nearly 50% of the date palm-growing countries. In these photos, if you look closely, you will notice that this beetle is carrying hundreds of babies under her head. The larval grub is considered a delicacy in much of Southeast Asia. “Sago Delight” or “Fried Sago Worms” are considered a speciality in Malaysia, although versions of this dish can be found in many Southeast Asian countries, where it is regarded as a delicacy. Sago grubs have been described as creamy tasting when raw, and like bacon or meat when cooked. They are often prepared with sago flour. In New Guinea, sago worms are roasted on a spit to celebrate special occasions.