Many people were fascinated about physics, chemistry, or biology when they were young.

In my case, one of the things that caught my interest was biology. Just looking at the pictures of the animals, specifically insects, just fascinated me.


With nothing more than a simple magnifying glass I was utterly amazed at how different they were from the vertebrates, or animals with internal skeletons.

Here were creatures with tiny legs that carried huge bodies as they did gravity defying actions such as climbing a perfectly vertical pane of glass, walking upside down on a ceiling, and even flying in strong wind.

Seeing my fascination, I remember my parents indulging my thirst for knowledge by buying me all the science books they could find.

It was their hope, and mine, that I would someday become a doctor. And though I never did enter the field of medicine, my fascination never ebbed when it came to insects.

Before you go any further, a word of warning, you’ll find pictures of insects in this article. So if seeing them up close and personal make you queasy, you may want to skip this and read another article instead.

But if your curiosity far exceeds your feelings of disgust, read on.





The Good

Praying Mantis

My favorite insect has to be the steady but lightning quick the Praying Mantis.

Not only are these insects eating machines that keep the insect population under control, their designs are beautiful to behold.

Take the Praying Mantis, it gets its name from the way it stands, resembling a man in deep prayer.

In this position, the front legs are folded together to hide spiked arms used to snare prey. And once their pray has been impaled on these tiny spikes, they feast on the insect while it is still alive.


Ant

Another favorite insect of mine is the ant.

Coming in different sizes and even shapes, they are about 22,000 estimated species in existence.

Being a bit younger than the others, they only appeared on earth about 130 million years ago when they evolved from wasps.

They are the epitome of the social organism, living in colonies of up to 700,000 members.

And while they only live to a maximum of 60 days, they are able to carry as much as 20 times its own weight.

But what makes them so interesting is that they live in colonies with different types such as workers, soldiers, queens, and drones.

Some bite, some pull, and others just plain tickle the skin when they dart all over you.


Dragonfly

My third favorite insect is the Dragonfly.

Dating back as far as 300 million years, the biggest fossil had a wingspan of two and a half feet wide.

Today there are about 5,000 different species, all starting out in the water. As nymphs, they have a voracious appetite in the water, eating everything from bugs to small amphibians and reptiles.

And while the Praying Mantis is an eating machine on the ground, the Dragonfly is its counterpart in the air.

Like a fighter pilot, they can change direction in a split second and fly extremely fast. In the case of flight speed, one study claims to have clocked a species at a bit over 96 kilometers per hour.

And not only are they fast enough to pluck mosquitoes from the air, their voracious appetite means that they feast on several in a single day.





The Bad

Mosquito

I can’t think of anything really good to say about an insect other that is responsible for killing millions with malaria over the years.

When you put one under a microscope, it is difficult to fathom how such a delicate looking insect can be responsible for killing so many people.

There are many things to hate about this insect, with the most annoying being that buzzing sound you hear right before it bites you.

Notoriously fast, they are very hard to kill because they are so tiny and fly so fast.

But if you go back to the microscope and get over your biases, you will actually see that this is another marvelous piece of biological engineering.

For one, it is very sensitive to heat. So sensitive that it can find blood vessels under your skin. By being able to know where they are, mosquitoes are able to land right above them and suck them so quickly, the only time you notice they were around is when your skin swells after the bite.

They are also very sensitive to carbon dioxide. And since its prey breathes, any exhaled breath wakes it up from slumber and puts it into attack mode.

Interestingly, it is only the female of the specie that sucks blood. The blood is needed for its eggs since they lack a component found in blood to grow.

For food, they eat plant juice, so if you have a lot of plants around you house you may have mosquitoes as well. That is unless you also happen to have Praying Mantises and Dragonflies near by.





The Ugly

House Fly

It probably comes as no surprise that the one insect I hate the most is the common house fly.

And though these insects are equally amazing pieces of biological engineering, they are filthy.

Just to give you an idea how dirty these things are, they are drawn to rotting food or dead animals.

After the scent draws them to their food, they step on the food to taste it. Then they spit out enzymes and digestive fluids on their food. After the food is turned to liquid, they then suck it  up through their proboscis.

But if you think that is disgusting, keep in mind that they like landing on a lot of surfaces. So after landing on that soft mushy dung pile in the garden, they will be carrying a few of that juicy feces with them when they land on your drinking glass.

And finally, I really don’t like them because they look downright ugly, with their only saving grace being their compound eye.


Cockroach

Having exited for about 350 million years, this is another insect that I hate.

And it’s not hard to see how they have existed all this time. Try squashing one with a slipper and they still manage to stay alive for hours or even days at a time.

The widest wingspan belongs to a species in Central and South American which has been measured at 7 inches or 185 millimeters. To put things in perspective, that is more than half a foot wide. So if you have bad dreams about the small ones, then this specie should give you nightmares.

Though not as ugly as the house fly, cockroaches aren’t exactly pretty, no matter what angle they are viewed from.

But what they lack in looks, they make up for in features.

First off, these things are armored. Their exoskeleton is hard and requires a lot to pierce it, at least from the insect world. They also have a great sense of smell, light, and movement. And finally, the claws at the end of those spiny legs can climb a wide range of surfaces, even old tiles.

And finally, they carry a distinctive smell, which they leave wherever they pass over. One whiff of this and you know you have to clean the area because if you don’t, it will just attract more cockroaches.

And before you start thinking how cute termites look, think again. Termites are actually cockroaches that evolved to eat wood.





Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it a short list of the good, the bad, and the ugly insects.

And while I would love to the ones I dislike get wiped off the phase of the earth, their being here hundreds of millions of years mean that they will probably outlast the human race.

So the next time you happen to see a good insect, give it a little respect by letting it go unharmed. But if you happen to see the bad ones, squash that thing into oblivion!


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Praying Mantis and mosquito images courtesy of SweetCrisis / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Cockroach image courtesy of aopsan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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