Insects Are Not So Boring When Observed Up Close
Ever since elementary school we have been hearing about the importance of insects. For example, pollinating insects keep us fed, numerous bugs contribute to the health of the environment by eating dead waste, and bugs can even kill-off unwanted plant pests. In addition to all that, insects contribute fifty seven billion dollars to the American economy, according to insect expert David MacNeal, that is. MacNeal has recently written a book called Bugged. This book details some of the more amazing things that everyday insects do when we are not looking. His book debunks many myths about insects, such as the myth that flies have bad eye-sight, which they don’t. MacNeal also describes the complexities of insect communication, and the precision that some insects require when laying eggs into other objects, like fruits, or even other living bugs. MacNeal understands how boring some people find insects, but he insists that observing their lives through a microscope will show you entirely new worlds.
Every now and then, while observing crawling ants, you may find two tiny ants meeting up for a kiss. Or an ant carrying a huge chunk of food in its mouth. Next time you see that, continue watching the ants in order to see where they go and what they will do when they get there. When ants meet heads in a “kissing” fashion, they are transmitting chemical information that is decoded by olfactory organs. Ants have a variety of different olfactory organs that allow them to communicate a wide range of different messages. Who knows? Maybe they get jealous or excited. Or maybe they have their own form of joking. It is hard to imagine so many complex organs fitting within an ant’s tiny head, but they can understand much more about the world than you likely give them credit for.
Wasps are also amazing creatures, as the females possess an egg laying tube that is too thin for you to even see. This organ is called an “ovipositor” and it is only 1.5 microns in diameter. Female wasps will either parasitize certain bugs by injecting their ovipositors into some point on the doomed bugs’ bodies, or they will inject their eggs into hard fruit. The ovipositor is small enough to go unnoticed by many insects that are unwittingly being deposited with wasp larvae, or parasites, as they can also be called in these situations. The wasp larvae will feed on the slowly dying insect until it is big enough to emerge from its body as an adult wasp. When these eggs are injected into hard fruit, the unripe fruit keeps the eggs and developing larvae safe from the outside world. These are just a few of the not-so-gross insect activities that you can read about in MacNeal’s Bugs.
Have you ever seen the remains of an insect that had been used as a host for a parasite of some sort? If you have, what type of insect had died as a result of the infection? Do you have any idea as to what type of parasitic insect transported the parasite?