Learn something new every day

Fascinating Insects

Expand your world by learning about some of the coolest insects on the planet!

Products that Come from Insects

All About Honey Bees

Bees make honey out of nectar collected from flowers. Bees need to consume honey to produce beeswax. Beeswax is produced from the bees’ abdomen, and it is used to make honeycomb. The purpose of honeycomb is to provide a place for the queen to lay her eggs and to provide a place to store honey.  Bees store honey inside the holes of honeycomb. This honey will be their food supply during the winter.

Special thanks to BuzzAboutBees.Net for their incredible educational resources on honey bees. Explore their website for more information on all kinds of bees, including bumble bees.

Beautiful Bees

Wondrous Wasps

Amazing Ants

The Trap-jaw Ant can snap its large jaws very fast against the ground to launch itself backwards into the air. This helps it escape from predators such as the antlion. 

The Bullet Ant is described as the most painful insect. The venom from its stinger causes intense pain that lasts for many hours. 

The Kidnapper Ant is not capable of chewing its own food, so it recruits ants from another colony to do it for them. The Kidnapper Ant makes their ant slaves gather food, chew it, and then share it with them mouth-to-mouth. The ant slaves are fooled into thinking the Kidnapper Ants are their real family.

The Weaver Ant makes its nest in trees. The ants carry their larvae to the tree leaves where the larvae will produce silk. Then the ants use this silk to glue the leaves together to make their nest.

The Honeypot Ant has a unique method of storing food. Some members of the colony store nectar in their abdomen in case the ants need it later. They are called repletes, and they can share food with the rest of the colony using mouth-to-mouth regurgitation. Mouth-to-mouth food sharing is called trophallaxis, and it is very common in social insects like ants.

The Driver Ant queen does not fly to search for a mate. She stays in her nest and uses pheromones to attract a male. The male enters the nest to mate with the queen, losing his wings in the process. The male Driver ant’s large size has earned it the name “Sausage Fly”.


The Art of Camouflage

Cool Caterpillars

Many of Hawaii’s native caterpillars are carnivorous. There is only one carnivorous caterpillar in the mainland United States: the Harvester Butterfly.

The Morpho Butterfly has blue wings, but this blue is not caused by pigments. This blue is caused by nano-sized structures in the wings that refract light. In addition, only the top side of the Morpho’s wings is blue. The underside of the wings is brown and has many eyespots.

More Cool Cats

Click on this link to see amazing caterpillars from Ecuador. Special thanks to Andreas Kay for their videos.

Mutualism in Insects

Mutualism is when two different organisms form a close relationship that is beneficial for both of them. 

The Fanged Pitcher Plant provides a home for carpenter ants, which eat the insects caught in the pitcher. Then the ants’ poop is fertilizer for the plant. 

The sundew Roridula gorgonias catches insects with its sticky leaves, but it cannot digest them. The assassin bug Pameridea roridulae is able to walk on the plant without getting stuck thanks to its greasy body. The assassin bug feeds on the insects trapped on the plant. Then the assassin bugs’ poop is fertilizer for the plant.

The Yucca Plant can only be pollinated by the Yucca Moth, which feeds on the plant. They rely on each other to survive.

The Fig Tree can only be pollinated by the Fig Wasp, which feeds on the inside of the Fig. Figs are technically not fruit, despite their sweetness. The Fig contains hundreds of tiny flowers inside. When the wasp pollinates these flowers, Fig seeds are produced.
Commercial Fig Trees, however, are usually seedless and are propagated from cuttings. This is done by humans without the help of wasps.

Aphids secrete a sweet liquid called honeydew. Ants feed on this liquid and in return, they protect the aphids from predators like ladybugs and wasps. Ants are like the aphids’ bodyguards.

The Inga Tree has extrafloral nectaries, which are parts of the plant other than the flower that produce nectar. Nectar is usually produced in the flower to attract pollinators, but some plants produce nectar on their stems or leaves to attract ant bodyguards. The Inga Tree gives ants nectar, and the ants defend the tree from insects that try to eat it. However, the Nymphidium caterpillar produces a sweet liquid that convinces the ants to let it eat the Inga Tree. The Nymphidium caterpillar and the Inga Tree compete for the ants’ attention.

The Miami Blue Butterfly caterpillar also employs ant bodyguards. This caterpillar secretes a sweet liquid that ants like to eat. Sugar is the key to an ant’s heart.

Leafcutter Ants farm fungus in their nest. They cut leaves and take the pieces back to their nest, where the leaves become food for the fungus. Then the ants feed on the fungus. The ants and the fungus need each other to survive.

The Azteca Ant, the Polybia Wasp, and the Yellow-rumped Caciques tend to make their nests right next to each other. It is thought that these species protect each other from different predators. The Azteca Ant scares away Army Ants, protecting the wasp. The Polybia Wasp scares away predators such as woodpeckers (protecting the ants) and monkeys (protecting the Caciques). The Caciques scare away the Red-throated Caracara, protecting the wasp.

The Red-throated Caracara is a vicious predator that knocks over the entire wasp nest to feed on the wasp larvae.