Stick Insects: Insects In Disguise

Stick insects, otherwise known as Phasmatodea, are not a singular type of species. The term stick bugs and stick insects is a common name for the order Phasmatodea. This order is described as having the appearance of natural shrubbery and contains more than 3,000 species. Some of their unique characteristics include the ability to regenerate limbs and produce offspring with an unfertilized cell (parthenogenesis).

These insects can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They often live in warmer, tropical climates like tropical forests and woodlands. In these environments, they will be able to blend into their surroundings and evade their predators. In fact, these insects are so well at hiding that you can pick one up without knowing it was an insect until it starts moving in your hand of course.

The most common stick bug is the Northern Walkingstick. They are relatively small in length reaching up to 90 mm or about the size of your hand. They are usually brown or green in color and have 4 major walking legs. Their main source of food is usually foliage and leaves.

One of the things you might have never realized is that some walking sticks have wings! Some are wingless like the Northern walking stick but, researchers have been finding evidence that some species of walking sticks are regaining the ability the fly.

Bumblebees: Understanding The Swarm

There are over 250 different species of bumblebees in the world, each with its own unique characteristics. These insects are usually around 2 cm in length and black with yellow or orange bands. The bumblebee genus is considered to be a social genus. This means that they live in communities, typically in a nest with drones (males), workers, and a queen.

So, how does a hive begin and what are the dynamics of a bumblebee hive? After a cold winter, the queen bee will begin to form a new nest. She will first begin by laying her first group of eggs (6-8 eggs). These larvae will eventually develop into workers and begin to collect pollen and develop the hive. The queen at this point will begin to devote her life to laying eggs and producing the colony. At this point, the queen will continue to lay solely worker bees until a certain population is met. At this point, the queen will produce drones and even other queen bees. This development completes the social community of the hive until the cold weather kills them off and they have to begin again next year using leftover larvae.

One of the things you might wonder is how the queen controls the types of bees she is producing. One of the abilities of the queen is to release pheromones that help determine the sex of her progeny. Although there are other females in the hive, the queen bee is the only one capable of determining the offspring’s sex. The reason for this is because of how she is treated within the community. She is cared for and fed by workers and drones enough to become fully sexually mature. Other female worker bees can produce offspring but they can not determine the sex.

Unlike most people believe, bumblebees can sting but rarely do. They are typically calm and relaxed bees that will only attack when they feel threatened. Unlike other types of bees, however, bumblebees do not swarm. Instead, they can be found individually. Other types of bees are stingless but, instead of having stingers, they have painful bites. So, no matter the type of bee you are handling, always bee careful.

Praying Mantis: Ninjas Of The Wild

The Praying Mantis is a rare and endangered species typically found in tropical or subtropical regions. However, some can be found in grasslands, deserts, and meadowlands. Based on where this organism lives they can have a different color, body shape, and much more. Within this group of organisms, there are about 2,400 different types of species! The general features of a Mantis include two bulb-shaped eyes, a mandible, large triangular-shaped heads, a long thin thorax connected to a thicker abdomen. Since they are defined as insects they have six appendages but, the forelegs are adapted for hunting. They are equipped with joints that allow them to grab onto their prey with sharp, blade-like arms.

One of the defining characteristics between a male and female is that the female is much larger and more dominant. Due to the female body being so much larger it is unable to fly while the male can. During reproduction, the female will also dominate the male. This includes grabbing the male and eating it for nutrients after mating has finished. The other major physical difference between a female and male praying mantis is the number of abdominal segments. The male will have six segments while the female has eight. This is a much easier way to distinguish the two in nature.

Though the Praying Mantis is a very unique-looking organism, they are not one you should mess with. They are extremely defensive animals. They will fight and win against most small animals and insects. This is not beneficial, however. The Praying Mantis will often prey on many beneficial animals to the environment and can actually do more harm than good.